Visions du réel documentary festival: “In Guangzhou, globalization from below”

One of the most intriguing experiences of the deterritorialized festival was the Na China of the French Marie Voignier (photo DR) who, to auscultate the effects of globalized capitalism, followed three Cameroonian entrepreneurs launched into the heart of the reactor: the huge deregulated sap market in Guangzhou, China. Spending an hour to see them negotiate in Mandarin, feel the thickness of the fabrics, discuss the original and the copy is all the more fascinating as this global phenomenon is generally understood from the virtual point of view, but is here embodied by a delirious profusion of goods.

Bundles of banknotes, mountains of plastic t-shirts, lists of numbers and names adorning notebooks filled by hand: nothing seems to be scanned, no computer appears, and humans generally invisible during online negotiations thoughtless is found put forward, packing boxes with large rolls of scotch tape. The imperative of discretion, the impossibility of asking for an official authorization of filming led Marie Voignier to multiply the strategies, using here her phone or her camera, having recourse to a chief op and a camera on foot to stage when conditions allowed, resulting in a hybrid sticking to the nature of its subject. When a Chinese blogger in charge of selling via a livestream finally appears, at the corner of a stall, debiting her sales pitch, and changing live in front of her smartphone, we touch the climax a situation that threatens to transform each of us into merchandise.

How did the idea for the film come about? Thanks to the invitation of the Guangzhou Times Museum?

Yes, they were looking for artists who were interested in the presence of an African community in Guangzhou. Having already made two films in Cameroon, the place of Cameroonian goods in the world economy interested me. And the question of incarnation: one of the things that fascinated me on my way to Guangzhou was to see, finally, a relatively large part of this globalization so abstract, this inhuman beast that we never see, and what relationship between the unit scale of people at work and the scale of international trade. This is where we can see the capitalism of the commodity, of overproduction, in small details that we can make an image of.

Read also: Visions of reality, docus in strong interiors

This hypercontemporary phenomenon is based on almost archaic tools – bundles of banknotes, invoices written by hand … This is what economists call globalization from below, or not hegemonic, which occurs outside large groups, international institutions and the system. In Europe too, we have this type of exchange, but what interested me here was to see how they escaped regulations, intellectual property law. Chinese producers and African consumers do not feel that they have to comply with this Western law, there is something that escapes in terms of philosophy, another conception of the original and the copy.

Why did you only film women?

It wasn’t necessarily the starting point, but in the articles or reviews that I read, it was mainly about men, because there are fewer women, and I found that a shame. It’s even more complicated for them to make a hole in this relatively masculine universe, they’re pretty lonely. Being Western, I also know that my film will be seen more at home, and I liked that these women go against stereotypes about women from Africa. These figures are generally absent from our landscape.

How did you experience the online passage of Visions du réel?

I am very disappointed, obviously, that we were deprived of the collective in the restitution of our work, and that it was impossible to exchange. I wanted to support the festival and not go it alone, so I accepted that my film be seen online, but I don’t want to get used to these forms, I find that there there is something dangerous about it. I do not want to bring myself to see the positive side, I think we must be vigilant about the general gratuitousness of all artistic content, because behind there are authors, technicians, people who will not be paid for a long time .

Elisabeth Franck-Dumas


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