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Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen (1983)

A short film which documents the lives of women in a rural Senegal.

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A short film which documents the lives of women in a rural Senegal.

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Documentary | Short

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24 September 1983 (USA)  »

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Reassemblage  »

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Reassemblage: by Chinese-American Feminist Filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha
19 September 2006 | by See all my reviews

I was at a conference called "Gendered Spaces" in 1994 when one of my favorite feminist writers surprised me by showing up to present her film. It was "Reassemblage," an ethnographic study of a thriving African community: Senegal.

It is ever so typical for the US mainstream, tunnel-visioned & repetitious mass media (especially on cable or satellite) to search for the tragic horror shots of starving, bug eaten African citizens. They are bare breasted women, near naked men (if any men are filmed at all), with a host of babies & children whose bellies are swollen from near starvation being shown to the US public viewer.

Is it any wonder that American citizens have been misled to believe that Africans are "primitive," ignorant, non-self-sustaining people looking for US handouts?

Trinh T. Minh-ha carries a video camera herself, doing video-ethnography, nearly whispering as she films what she's seeing in the West African village: people who are thriving, self-sustaining & obviously extremely in touch with the environment since their food gardens are abundant & their bodies are quite healthy looking.

At the feminist conference where she presented her outstanding documentary, it was quite controversial because the mainly women audience of hundreds was upset with Trinh for focusing, as she did, on the naked breasts of the African women. In fact, she centered her film around them.

But, the astute filmmaker explained that she focused & centered her film on the African women's breasts because the village did. That photographs & films have been shown previously depicting dried out, empty women's breasts that were not capable of sustaining the lives of their offspring because they too were starving to death. (While the media cameraman probably had at least a sandwich for lunch!).

The abundance of food, the thrivance of the village as well, were represented by the full bossomed healthy & strong working African women.


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