Les Saignantes (The Bloodettes)
Les Saignantes is the best African sci-fi vampire political satire with erotic overtones you’ve ever seen. Best friends Majolie and Chouchou are two beautiful young women trying to get ahead in a near-future Cameroon. After accidentally killing a powerful politician during sexual intercourse, the two come up with a plot to dispose of the body, and get into the glamorous wakes that have taken over the local nightlife. As the girls tear their way through the corrupt ruling class, using their feminine wiles and magical powers, Bekolo drops inter-titles into the film, commenting on the difficulties of filmmaking in an oppressive political climate. With a feminist subtext and cinematography like a blacklight rave, Les Saignantes is a beautiful, disorienting, and truly original work.
Jean-Pierre Bekolo, 93 min, Cameroon/France, 2005
Produced by: Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Andre Bennett, Lisa Crosato, Jim Fink, Michelle Gue, Pascale Obolo, Adrienne Silvey
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Bekolo
With: Dorylia Calmel, Adèle Ado, Emile Abossolo M'Bo, Josephine Ndagnou, Essindi Mindja, Alain Dzukam, Veronique Mendouga, Bekate Meyong, Thierry Mintamack
Music: Joelle Esso, Adam Zanders
Cinematography: Robert Humphreys
Edited by: Jean-Pierre Bekolo
Distribution: Germany, Austria, Switzerland
Language: French with German or English Subtitles
Poster/Pictures: Can be sent digitally
After eight years of absence, maverick Cameroonian director Jean-Pierre Bekolo Obama (“QuartierMozart”, “Aristotle’s Plot”) returned in 2005 with his magnum opus, “Les Saignantes/The Bloodettes”, a superbly photographed, stylishly edited and tastefully scored film about two young femmes fatales who set out to rid a futuristic country of its corrupt and sexually obsessed powerful men. In this stylized sci-fi-action-horror hybrid, Majolie and Chouchou, exquisitely played by Adèle Ado and Dorylia Calmel (both budding stars to look out for), navigate a sordid world where sex, money, politics and death are perniciously imbricated. Young, attractive, fashionable and lethal, they are on a mission to change the destiny of their country. But their task is made difficult by a formidable foe.
Also embedded into the film is the Beti-ritual called Mevungu, which is traditionally performed by women’s secret societies, only in times of deep social crisis. Africa and particularly Cameroon, says Bekolo, is facing such a deep social crisis that it was high time to perform this ritual.
Revealing in its display of excess, committed to aesthetics of “cool”, “Les Saignantes” is one of the first science fiction films to come out of Africa. It is a film with attitude, a film that poses questions about relationships between men and women, about the destiny of a continent, about the nature and future of cinema… The film nearly fell victim to censorship in Cameroon.
In the film, Bekolo raises questions which are much broader than just the themes covered in the actual plot. “How can you make an anticipation film in a country that has no future? How can you make a horrorfilm in a place where death is a party? How can you make an action film in a country where acting is subversive? How can you film a love story in a society where love is impossible? How can you make a crime film in a country where investigation is forbidden? How can you watch a film like this and do nothing after?”
- Silver Stallion at FESPACO, 2007
- Best Actress Awards for Adèle Ado and Dorylia Calmel, FESPACO, 2007
- Special Mention of the Jury, FESPACO, 2007
“Along with the intertitles, the abundance of crooked politicians and the trading of sexual favors all point to Bekolo’s radical political commentary, an aspect that has gotten the film into trouble with Cameroon’s censorship board.” Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
"Masked behind the eroticism, dancing, and other parts i feel might be distractions (again, i’m not that into sci-fi, so forgive me), there are definitely some deep, philosophical and political questions Bekolo is asking and statements he is making." Black Film
The film critique Aboubacar Sanogo qualifies „Les Saignantes “ as avantgarde in any sense of the term, particularly in its narrative methods and its approach. For him, the film symbolizes the birth of a « cinéma du corps » (cinema of the body) in Africa as well as of an African science-fiction genres. The idea to stage two modern young women as the avengers of the whole continent against a corrupt political elite is just ingenious, writes Sanogo.
“In his third feature film Bekolo remains faithful to his inclination towards provocation, mockery and social satire. (…) With beautiful colours, fantastic actors/actrices, „Les Saignantes/The Bloodettes“ is perhaps more magic than futuristic. More than once the action goes against any logic and rationale.” Francis Mbagna, written in the context of a workshop at the 10th Festival Ecrans Noirs, Yaoundé.
"Avec Les Saignantes, j'explore l'idée d'un cinéma d'anticipation et de projection. Ce qu'on pourrait appeler en anglais "cautionnary cinema", un cinéma qui veut tirer la sonnette d'alarme. Et sa forme se veut un contact avec une certaine jeunesse africaine qui rejette sa propre image, son propre cinéma, à raison. Ce film se veut aussi "empowering", c'est-à-dire qu'il doit renforcer l'estime de soi, malgré la situation glauque qu'il décrit. Chaque fois qu'on parle de l'Afrique, on en parle au passé et au présent. Jamais de l'avenir. Pourtant, cet avenir sera là, surtout pour les jeunes. Et ce qu'on en fera sera ce qu'on aura pensé aujourd'hui. Connaissez-vous l'adresse de ce bureau où on pense l'avenir dans nos pays ? L'urgence est de le créer. Et ce serait encore mieux si le cinéma pouvait y jouer un rôle important"
Director: Jean-Pierre Bekolo
Jean-Pierre Bekolo was born in Yaounde, Cameroon in 1966 and is now known to subvert the conventions and didacticism of African film and literature with an aesthetic that “tosses it all merrily together”. He has taught film at Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at Duke University. In the late 80’s Bekolo trained as a television film editor in France at INA. He returned home shortly thereafter and worked for Cameroonian television, where he was responsible for editing short films. During this time, he was also involved in the production of films, such as Boyo, Un Pauvre Blanc, and Mohawk People, as well as video clips for Les Têtes Brûlées and Manu Dibango. His first feature film was the award-winning Quartier Mozart (1992), which won prizes at film festivals in Cannes, Locarno, and Montreal and was nominated, in 1993, for a British Film Institute award. The film mixes sorcery and urban realities in a satire of male and female roles. Aristotle’s Plot was the African entry in the British Film Institute’s series of films commemorating the centenary of cinema. Part meditation on the trials of African filmmaking, part action movie, and parody of Aristotelian and African preoccupations, it shows his skill as an “increasingly fearless trickster”. Other feature-length films include Have you seen Franklin Roosevelt? (1994), Les Saignantes (2005) and Le Président (2013).