Hachimiya Ahamada, diasporian of the Comoros and French of Comorian origin, embraces both her cultures, while at the same time in search of an identity she knows only from her parents stories and images that she has seen. It is through cinema-the lens of her camera, that she finds her Comorian roots.
Hachimiya, you were born and raised in France, part of the Comorian Diaspora who has deep roots in the Comoros. What is your relationship to the Comoros as a Diasporan in France?
I was born in Dunkerque where the Comorian Diaspora is very present. It is considered the third city of the Comorian Diaspora in France (after Marseille, Paris or le Havre-the first migrations coming with maritime workers). While a large community it is a rather quiet one.
I went to the Comoros for the first time when I was already an adult, a bit late to search for one's family and origins. During my childhood in Dunkerque, the Comoros remained an imaginary country and I envisioned it through the eyes of my parents. I also discovered the archipelago through the images of an idyllic island: postage stamps, videos, photos, tourist posters, naive paintings...
My father worked as a packer in a metallurgy factory. His dream was to build a house for the family in his native village (Ouellah Itsandra in the Grande Comore). All of his savings went towards the realisation of this dream. Unless the house was completed we would not go to the Comoros. That is why it has taken so long to go there, even though the house is still not quite finished.
I define myself as a child of the Comorian Diaspora who has the wealth of two cultures (that of birth and of origin). Through cinema, I try to understand my Comorian roots. I want to film the Comoros from a different perspective than the folklore, large weddings, traditions, and the legendary Bob Denard. I want to show a different Comoros than preconceived ideas of it.
What were your experiences with cinema while growing up and how did you come to filmmaking?
During my adolescent years, I spent most of my Wednesday and Saturday afternoons in a video workshop entitled "School of the Street" in a youth and culture centre in Dunkerque. It is there where I took my first steps in filmmaking. Together, my friends and I came together as we made our first attempts at filming and also to watch films. We learned to see critically by watching challenging films. There was such a chemistry between us that today many of us are connected in some way to cinema (projectionist, producer, director, coordinator in the distribution to schools and so on). The "School of the Street" was our golden age: we lived our adolescence through moving images!
At the time, there was also "Les Rencontres Internationales Cinématographiques de Dunkerque / The International Film Festival of Dunkerque" (now defunct). Mingling among these established directors at the festival stimulated our desire to make films. I did not dare try. I did not feel capable even though I dreamed of doing it. With the motivation of my friends I found the courage to take the film school entrance exam. I studied film directing at Insas (Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle et de la Diffusion) in Brussels, graduating in 2004. Four years later, I made my first short fiction film The Ylang Ylang Residence about the Grande Comore Island. To my surprise, the film was screened at the International Critics Week at Cannes in 2008.
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