The March, The Burden, The Desert, The Boredom, The Anger

UGC de Brouckère
Première : 3/05 > 20:00

Beursschouwburg > 20:30
FR > Subtitles : NL

"Bahman could only tell his story once: to disabused government officials from the Office des Etrangers. It is for this reason, and with him, that I am making this film."

Els Dietvorst has another thirty-one actors involved, all Belgian but originating from other countries and now living in the precarious Anneessens district of Brussels. For five years they have been bringing their stories to life on stage or on screen, "for this reason and with her", in a large multimedia project: The Return of the Swallows. The final part of this artistic journey is the feature-length film The March, The Burden..., with Rimbaud, who used to walk these same streets before fleeing for Africa, as our guide.

Experimental documentary

The film was made in Brussels (B) and Erfoud (Morocco)
DV cam, 76 mins, colour.
Production: Firefly 2004

Een film van/Un film de/A film by: Bahman Homa, David Godon, Emma Puigi de la Bellacassa, Flora Zoda, Guiliane Mansard, Helena Coppejans, Ismail Dahabi, Kito Isimba, Kokou Zokli, Lara Aniela Radzki, Marie-Louise Jacobs, Michel Puissant, Miguel Delvaux, Rachid Ajerrar, Reda Chebchoubi, Sarah Lefevre, Sylvie Van Molle, Yacine Bakdach, Vincent Mercenier...
Scenario/Scénario/Script: Els Dietvorst, Orla Barry and the actors above.
Regie/Mise en scène/Director: Els Dietvorst
Regie assistent/Assistant mise en scène/Assistant to the director: An Van Dienderen, Jan Dietvorst

Acteursregie/mise en scène des acteurs/performers director: Caroline Donnely
Camera/caméra: Rémon Fromont
Scenario/Scénario/Script: Eva Houdova
Geluid/Son/Sound: Thomas Gastinel, Marc Engels, Frederic Fontaine
Tweede camera/Deuxième caméra/Second camera: Steven Schoukens
Geluid tweede camera/son deuxième caméra/Sound second camera: Patrick Giets
Cameramachinerie/Machiniste/Grip: Björn Maroten
Belichting/Eclairage/Lighting: François Zeegers
Kostuums/Costumière/Seamstress: Sofie Lehman
Een productie van/Une production de/A production of: FIREFLY VZW
Producent/Pruducteur/Line producer: Bavo Bostoen
Productieleiding /Directeur de la production/ Production manager: Dries Phlypo
Productie assistentie/Assistants de production/ Production assistants: Liesbet Vaes, Bindu Stuyck, Djo Moembo, Thomas Sennesael

Setfotografie/Photographie set/ SetPhotography: Norma Prendergast

Lara Aniela Radzki - Justina

Kokou Zokli - Kokou Zokli

Bahman Homa - Bahman Homa

Yacine Bakdach - Nico

Rachid Ajerrar - the nightman

Sarah Lefevre - Rosa

David Godon - Victor

Reda Chebchoubi - Camel

Kito Isimba - the interviewer

Marie-Louise Jacobs - Nico’s mother

Guilianne Mansard - the servant & soothsayer

Miguel Devaux - the police officer

Sylvie Van Molle - the pigeonwoman

Vincent Mercenier - the presenter of Playbacknight

Ismail Dahabi & family Dahabi - Nico’s friends

Calogera Genova - the man in the car

Michel Puissant - the transvestite

Flora Zoda - the woman dancing on Place Anneessens

Emma Puigi de la Bellacassa - the cut out barmaid

Helena Coppejans - the cut out angel

Anna Luyten - the tv-reporter

Fouad Dabachi - the pittaman

Michel Jurowicz - the office-worker

Bernard Boudru - the angry man in the car crash scene

Pierre Tshiabuta Ntoka Munda - Happy

Olivier Caudron - the co-presenter of Playbacknight

Ouafae Miouf - Ismail’s sister

Luigi Constanza - the shepherd

Met de medewerking van/Avec la collaboration de/ In collaboration with:

Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds, Centre du Cinéma et de l’audiovisuel, GSARA, BSBbis, Het Fonds Alain De Pauw (Koning Boudewijnstichting), Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap/SAP, Ministerie van Vlaamse Gemeeschap, Afdeling Volksontwikkeling en Bibliotheekwerk, Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommisie/SIF, Kunstenfestivaldesarts.
Presentatie/Présentation/Presentation: Beursschouwburg, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts, UGC de Brouckère.

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Brussels, April 2004

1. The prehistory of the long-term project: The Return of the Swallows

The project The Return of the Swallows can be considered as a process of individual and collective creation that has taken four years. Its subjects are identity, metamorphosis and flight.

The project The Return of the Swallows began in 1999 in the Anneessens district of Brussels.

Out of pure curiosity for the people who live there and the origins of the tensions that prevail, I set off in search of the district’s roots, its waves of migration, its historical context and to meet its residents. What I had in mind was to construct an artistic project. Every day over a period of several months I went there to talk to residents and organisations in the district and I endeavoured to get a better understanding of what the issues are, when words get stuck in people’s throats. I kept a record of all these conversations, the reflections I heard and my own thoughts. Noted down, photographed or recorded with a video camera, they have formed the material used to make The Return of the Swallows and provided ideas for its future development.

As The Return of the Swallows progressed, several short and medium-length videos were made which bear witness to the path being taken. Reworked, they have enabled the evolutionary process of this five-year project and its many faces to be shared publicly in sounds and images.

2. The work process behind the film The March, The Burden, The Desert,The Boredom, The Anger


Twenty-two protagonists with no artistic, film or theatrical experience provide the basis for this project. All of them have their own lives, stories, dreams and desires. The project developed by catalysing their words: they have written the scenario themselves and conceived the roles that they bring to the screen. The March, The Burden, The Desert, The Boredom, The Anger represents the final stage of a long process: a new film, a completely separately film that can be seen everywhere by large audiences in cinemas. To get to that point, they didn’t rest until they had explored what it means to write for cinema, rehearsing and acting for the camera, shooting the film and going outside to film in the district.

working method

Fiction has the same function as games have. In playing, children learn to live, because they simulate situations in which they may find themselves as adults. And it is through fiction that we adults train our ability to structure our past and present experience. (Umberto Eco)

The work process for The Return of the Swallows rests on an intense dialogue between its protagonists and its director. It has been constructed using a very specific method. First it would be focused on the individual conversation in order to define the subject that each protagonist wanted to treat. Second, plenty of rehearsals and improvisation helped us give substance to the ideas. It was a gradual quest to formulate them.

All these stages have subsequently become very precious. The actors became very keen on this way of working. Rehearsals developed little by little which gave them a feeling of complete involvement in creating the film. Together we looked for the role that best suited them, whether it was close to or removed from their own lives. Some roles came directly from their everyday lives, others completely transcended any kind of reality. Proceeding like this with amateurs and envisaging the construction of a fiction in this way – through individual interviews, improvisations and collective rehearsals – bore fruit in two films: Na de zondvloed (After the Flood) and De laatste nacht van de nachtman (The Last Night of the Nightman). Our treatment of the fiction not only proved to be accurate, but some of the actors revealed themselves to be capable of astonishing performances.

3. Actors as writers and actors of their own life story

Everyone, big and small, was enthusiastic about a film that is the outcome of a project which has been carried out in the district over several years. After auditions and rehearsals, we put together a group of 22 people prepared to work with us for three years. With these people we made the digital films After the Flood and The Last Night of the Nightman. This choice of fiction was naturally part of the scope of the overall project: dealing with and transcending one’s own reality, transforming what is experienced of this reality into a poetical resource and making it accessible for the spectator. The decision to film with the light touch offered by video also meant that everyone’s creative involvement could be enhanced.

Most of the sequences in the new film The March, The Burden, The Desert, The Boredom, The Anger were made in the Anneessens district, but we also took off to Morocco for a series of other shots in it: to the Moroccan desert and Erfoud.

Brussels (Anneessens district), our point of departure. The city as a human reserve. The Moroccan desert, our final destination. No borders, no roofs.

In the course of the story, we see one of the actors leave Europe to go back to Africa, looking for his roots and himself. In others, the path of existences is the other way round: it follows those who left Africa (Togo) or Asia and end up in Belgium.

4. The film’s synopsis

July 2000. It was very hot when I met Bahman on the other side of the street. He came from Iran and spoke Farsi. His cheeks were still burnt by the mountain sun he left behind. Mohammed, who had also come from Iran, was with him. ‘I only saw Mohammed twice after he went off to see women and gamble in the casino’, said Bahman. ‘He’s gone to England in a container.’ Bahman stayed. We talked about a lot that year: his 22-day journey to Belgium, his brother, his country. He became a “swallow” and a friend. Today, after two years of the pale Belgian sun, the fire has left his cheeks. He is waiting, still waiting, always waiting to be able to work, to get his papers, to be acknowledged. He goes to classes in French and computing and plays music. But he’s had enough of waiting. He’s eyeing up the container. The urge to leave is huge. Bahman could only tell his story twice: for the Office des Etrangers. Bahman is one of the people for whom and with whom I am making this film.

Since I got The Return of the Swallows up and running, the flight of swallows comprises 22 migrants so far. Bahman and 21 Belgians. Almost all of them have their roots in Morocco or Italy, La Réunion, Colombia, Togo, the Congo, Egypt, Russia, Iran and Belgium. They all live in Belgium. Each of their faces has a name, a character, a laugh of their own. Each has his own story. Fragmented, their stories and all the emotions running through them form the basis for the film. We are swallows willingly. Because it links us together, gives us something to do, allows us to express ourselves, makes us dream.

Brussels, and more particularly the Anneessens district, is the location of this film’s gestation. Just like me, one way or another these swallows have landed in Brussels. The city is like a bird-catcher’s net for birds leaving the nest or flying where the wind takes them. We like being swallows. Because it shows us that there is a unit, a common measurement in the diversity of human beings with their singular stories, feelings and interests. Because it goes against prejudices and the human being is seen as a human being, without any bullshit. With respect.

This film is about man, the human being and the “human condition”, with his qualities and failings, his anxieties and dreams.

Twenty-two protagonists have been chosen from the ‘melting pot’ that is Brussels. Their nest is located in the Anneessens district in the heart of Brussels.

In the first phase of the project they express their emotions and the story of their life in a very direct way.

In the following phases, the “swallows” use these different emotions to transcend reality, to develop, write and act out characters who are their own ‘alter egos’. Together we have written the script and used the wings of their role, carried sometimes by the wind of their life, sometimes by the current of their experiences and emotions, carried finally by their dreams and desires.

They have flown back to their roots with the swallows, guided by a star called poetry.

Since the outset of the project a few years ago, we have been following the vital impressions of the young Arthur Rimbaud. His life and his poetry have profoundly influenced the contents of the videos made, the stories told at night and the workshops. In 2001, parts of A Season in Hell, written shortly before Rimbaud left Europe for Africa, accompanied us a lot.

For this new film, the inspiration is more direct: his “flight” becomes the essential theme running through it:

Let’s go! The march, the burden, the desert, the boredom, the anger

(Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell)

Flight and metamorphosis, particularly being someone else or beginning another life somewhere else, are the main themes of The March… It is a way of giving substance to their daily struggle for life.

The film weaves their “traces of life” together and more than anything restores its emotional fragments. The film follows five characters. Five protagonists who are archetypal of the rest of the group. They offer comings and goings, the incessant transit underway in the area.

The main characters can be briefly described as follows:

The nocturnal man” (Rachid Ajerrar). He’s the man who has chosen to live at night. He really does transcend reality and links the different characters together with his voice and texts.

Nico” (Yassin Bakdah). Born from a mixed Belgian-Moroccan marriage, he runs a shop from where you can call abroad cheaply. He doesn’t feel at home in Belgium and flies off to Morocco in search of his roots.

“Kokou” (Kokou Zokli) fled his country, Togo. He is looking to build a new life in Brussels. It’s impossible to forget the “events” in his country. In Belgium he is confronted with typical western absurdities.

“Bahman” (Bahman Homa) is an Iranian refugee. He has been waiting for his residence permit for three years. He’s invited by a local TV station to come and talk about his life.

“Justina” (Lara Aniela Radzki) came to Brussels from her native Poland. She is trying to survive in this big city but remains very attached to her roots.

Els Dietvorst

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