ABAKAR SOULEYMANE People would come up to me and say, “You are so brave for being able to do that.” That was shocking.
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Haroun, you remain the only feature director in Chad with international visibility. In terms of logistics does it continue to be as difficult to produce film in the country as when you started out?
HAROUN It’s very difficult to shoot in Chad because we don’t have a real industry. We don’t have real technicians. All the people who work with me in Chad have other jobs, and then when I shoot they come back. We also don’t have professional actors. Sometimes the pressure of society is so strong that you cannot find women who accept to be naked or to kiss someone in a film. When I was looking for the actor for the role of Amina, I met a 40-year-old single mother. I said, “Do you want to act in my film?” And she said, “I’m very interested but I first have to ask my uncles.” In our society, the uncles on your mother’s side have to take care of you. So I said, “If you are not free to make it, forget about it.” This is the situation. Then, of course, we don’t have financing there. I’m always looking for money everywhere, and then go back to Chad to make a film because it’s a duty for me. It’s a responsibility. I’m the only active filmmaker there and if I stop making films in Chad, the world will be missing images from my country.
Achouackh, what was your path into “Lingui” and into acting in general?
ABAKAR SOULEYMANE I’m an entrepreneur, so I have a restaurant. After high school I studied journalism and now I’m learning sociology. I do a lot of things, but I always wanted to act. I left Chad when I was, like, 17, worked in fashion in California, and I came back 13 years later. I met Haroun in 2012 when he was prepping for “GriGris” [his 2013 drama]. I was assistant costume, and then I got to have a little role in it. I hoped the next time around I could have a bigger part, but I never thought I could have the main role in a movie. I watch a lot of movies, and it was a dream, but I’m a Chadian woman, and I know that in Chad this is not something that you do, so I didn’t really try to pursue it and then it happened. I was almost 40, so I thought, “It’s now or never.”
Could you elaborate on the meaning of the “lingui,” a Chadian concept referring to this unspoken union between people, which in the film seems to concern women specifically?
HAROUN Lingui is a precept for living together. It concerns everybody in society and it starts with your neighbors. It’s based on tenderness between everyone in the community to resist violence. This mother and daughter only have this love with all the other women. They share the same experiences with their bodies — of being pregnant — and this lets them understand that they belong to the same community and they have the same destiny, so they have to help each other. The lingui is not dead among women, but men, because of power, they forget about it.
ABAKAR SOULEYMANE In Chadian society, when there is an issue women only have each other, because there are things that you can’t share with the men. Women have got each other’s backs here and that is powerful.