Black World Cinema: Feb 1 &2, 2012
The Place in Between (Notre étrangère)
ICE Theater Lawndale, Wed Feb 1, 7pm 2012
ICE Theater Chatham, Thur Feb 2, 7pm 2012

France/Burkina Faso, 2010, 82 min
dir: Sarah Bouyain
prod: Sophie Salbot
scr: Sarah Bouyain, Gaëlle Macé
In French and Dioula with English subtitles.

Exploring dilemmas of culture and race, Sarah Bouyain’s debut feature tells dovetailing stories of African women living in France. Amy is a young biracial woman whose mother is from Burkina Faso. At the age of eight, she was “reclaimed” by her father and went to live with him in France. His death 20 or so years later prompts a desire to visit her birthplace and reconnect with her other parent. In a parallel story, a middle-aged white woman is learning Dioula, a West African language spoken in Burkina Faso, from a taciturn woman named Mariam. In carefully precise scenes, Bouyain explores the displacement that both Mariam and Amy face in a country that is familiar but not quite home. In Burkina Faso, Amy tries to fit in by buying a brightly patterned dress, but locals call her “white lady” and she’s unable to converse with her aunt in order to discover her mother’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Mariam tries to accustom herself to the bustle of Paris, where traditions and personal relationships are different from what she is used to. Through these two narratives, an affecting portrait of the African diaspora emerges. Over the course of the film, these two self-possessed women may not definitively discover the place where they belong, but what they do find is a significantly stronger sense of self.

—Rod Armstrong

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