Rosine Mbakam’s first feature The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman has a simple premise. Here, the documentary filmmaker returns to Cameroon and interviews her mother. That, in itself, is an act of humanity, especially within the framework of this festival. The Bamileke people have a flourishing population in Cameroon.
But that large population doesn’t exempt them from atrocities like war and slavery that her mother and recent generations experienced. Mbakam’s framing here is interesting, occasionally showing her mother off centre. She gives as much focus on her mother as she does the rubble and the spaces denoting her loss.
With her mother, Mbakam also explores parts of Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, visiting places that mean a lot to both. One of those places is the seaside. There they remember her brother who went missing after riding a boat to Nigeria for work.
In The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman, Mbakam beautifully uses the Bamileke language to discuss loss. She also narrates those thoughts in French. She remembers, as a younger mother, all the possibilities and hindrances that mothers can face. That, despite moving to Belgium, there are the things that she has to prepare herself for.
Before we get to Mbakam’s messages, I do have to point out a few nitpicks. She loads some of her visual compositions with meaning yet other images can be frustratingly simplistic. There are also some scenes that feel static even when she breaks up her long takes.
I also wonder if the feature would be better if she focused on one duality instead of exploring different ones. That said, there’s a silver lining to the loss that her mother experienced. The feature imparts the idea that her losses made her and Mbakam the independent women they now are.
For more information on The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman go to https://www.hrff.ca/the-two-faces-of-a-bamileke-woman.