Marc-Henri Wajnberg • Director of I am Chance
“I wanted these street girls to become the subjects of their own story again”
- Cineuropa met with the Belgian filmmaker who once again dives into the heart of Kinshasa for a documentary alongside the street children who populate the city
A meeting with Belgian filmmaker Marc-Henri Wajnberg, who after the fiction feature Kinshasa Kids [+see also:
interview: Marc-Henri Wajnberg
film profile] and the virtual reality film Kinshasa Now dives once again into the heart of Kinshasa for I am Chance [+see also:
interview: Marc-Henri Wajnberg
film profile], a feature-length documentary (in cinemas in Belgium from today) alongside the street children who populate the city, and more particularly with a gang of girls and their leader, Chancelvie.
Cineuropa: What are the origins of this project?
Marc-Henri Wajnberg: 10 years ago, I went to Congo to make a film about some musicians who weren’t able to get their visas. I was so shocked to see these thousands of children on the streets, especially as I had children of about the same age at the time, that my project evolved into the drama Kinshasa Kids.
It was during the casting, where I saw hundreds of children, that I met Chancelvie and that I felt the strength she had. Many of the children I film have expressed the wish to get out of the street, and I have followed them. Some have been able to study, go to centres. But for Chancelvie, this choice was complicated, she’s been living in the streets since she was 8, and she isn’t ready to give up what she considers her freedom. One day she tells me she’s pregnant, and that she’d like us to make a film together. I told myself it was a sign that I had to go back there.
What does the documentary format specifically bring to this theme?
First of all, I thought it was interesting to talk specifically about the girls, about their stables, as they say. I absolutely did not expect to be plunged so deeply into their intimacy, nor to discover such violence. The idea was to give them a voice, and that’s actually why there isn't a commentary or voice over.
Children in general are invisible people, or rather invisibilised, to whom we don’t give a voice, and for girls it’s even worse. It was an opportunity to let them express themselves in their intimacy, in everything they wanted to say, to give them back this voice that is refused to them. Being at once women, and street children, these girls are doubly considered as objects. I wanted them to become the subjects of their own stories again.
What place do these young women have on the streets of Kinshasa? What is their situation in the city?
They have no place. It’s a parallel universe. No one pays any attention to these children. We did a tour in Congo, with educators outside Kinshasa, with the previous film, and when they discovered it, some started to cry, saying “We failed at something with these children.” Even the people who take care of them in the centres don’t look them in the eye when they bump into them on the streets.
Have things changed since you discovered this aspect of Kinshasa?
It’s worse than before in the sense that I feel there is less joy. The first time I went in 2010, there was a kind of euphoria everywhere and now, there’s some kind of sadness. Precariousness is even greater today.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
It was to give these young people a say, for them to express themselves freely. I think if Chancelvie accepted to be filmed, even asked for it, it’s so that someone, at last, pays attention to her. She told me about her life without censoring herself. About her mother’s rejection, the abuse, the rapes, including by her uncle. It’s very complicated to project oneself into the future for these girls who live on the street. They actually prefer to stay in a group, rather than be dispersed in centres. But being watched has made them think about the future…
(Translated from French)
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