Few filmmakers as consistent and committed as Robert Guédiguian. His activism and his social and leftist outlook ends up creeping into all of his films. Sometimes in a more subtle way, others in a frontal and unambiguous way. Films that are a punch in the bourgeois face of the West. This is the case of Mali Twist, where the author of Marius and Jeannette or My father is an engineer puts his look at postcolonial Mali of the 1960s, in the midst of the socialist revolution and the moment of the explosion of freedom of the young people of Bamako, who discover dance and joy while dreaming of political renewal.
Guediguian shows revolutionary dreams, but also its failures, such as machismo, intransigence or the division of the left. The wounds of a colonialism that wounded the countries and then abandoned them to their fate. A film that mixes the vitality of the dance and the color of Mali with a pessimistic story that shows the failure of those idealists.
Where did the interest in doing Mali Twist come from?
Well, because of the twist, because it reminds me of my childhood with my sister, that we always tried to dance the twist when it was on TV and we tried to imitate the dancers as best as possible. And after the figure of Patrice Lubumba, the former president of the Congo, who was a person who touched my soul at that time, because Lubumba appeared on all the news with his hands tied, imprisoned, trapped. Later it was said that his body was destroyed. He is also born of the African independence movements. I recognized myself in those idealistic young people, I resembled them at that age and that pushed me to make the film.
In the demonstrations in Spain in recent years it has been said that "It's not my revolution if I can't dance", and it has been inevitable for me not to think about that idea when watching your film.
I completely agree with that statement, and it is one of the reasons why I made this film, because I believe that the revolution should be linked to dancing, to having a good time. I don't know why, but it seems that the revolution must be linked to austerity, to serious faces, and the revolution is not that: the revolution is joy, and that joy must appear in the bodies, in the music, in the fun , in love. They are young, it is normal that they have a good time. The young militants are full of life.
At the end of the film there is a forceful phrase, one of the characters says: "If France had not colonized us, this would not have happened." To what extent are the wounds of colonization still present?
In France, as in Western countries, there is still a debate and a fight about the benefits or not of colonialism. Personally, I believe that colonialism has never brought any good. Colonialism is always summed up in torture, discrimination, economic aberrations... There is still a long way to go to finish paying for everything that was done wrong in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Not only in Africa but also in many other countries.
The film plays with the contrast between the black and white of the photographs taken by the protagonists and the color that floods Mali. Why did you make this decision?
It seemed obvious to me when I started working on the film, because of all the photos and footage left from this time, 95% is black and white. However, as soon as you step foot in Africa, in any street there is an explosion of color. It is something that comes to you. They are colors that are not used in the West, yellows, fuchsias, strong blues... colors that explode. What's more, they are colors that encourage you to have a good time, to dance, to move, and it was clear to me that there was a relationship between reality and history from this perspective, so I clearly saw that coming and going between black and white and the color.
The final scene reinforces an idea that is in the film, and that is that even the socialist revolutions forgot about women, they were sexist.
Yes, the film tries to show that the cultural revolution does not happen for the character of Lara. There is a collective revolution, but her individual revolution, her liberation as a woman, does not exist. She must fight alone, and I believe that most revolutions liberate collectively, but not individually. For me, Lara is the real protagonist because she is the key, the one that will show what the revolution does and what it does not do.
Why do leftist revolutions go wrong?
I think, personally, that because it was not the time. Now, I still think the time will come.
Colonization and its consequences is a complex issue, has it been difficult to finance a film that deals with this issue?
No, and it has an explanation, and that is that they are successful. Marx said that capitalism is a selling machine, a machine capable of selling everything, even the poison from which it will die.
In Spain we always envy the French cinema model, but recently Stéphane Brizé said that since the arrival of neoliberalism with Macron it is also threatened, how is the French film industry right now?
I think what is happening is that the economic reality of cinema is changing, and a political revision should be made around this. In France, like anywhere else, fewer tickets are sold, people go to the movies less, and this is perfect for the right, for liberalism, to attack and privatize, to let the platforms do what they want. For me, that is the danger, that the right is holding on to an unfavorable moment, but I think that the model we have can be reinvented. The right is never in favor of public intervention, but filmmakers are, but I think the model needs to be studied and reinvented.