Directed by Rosine Mbakam • Drama • 2011 • 14 minutes
A professionally dressed white woman, a television anchor, sits in the studio, pen in hand. She looks straight into the camera and says, “At home, the older you get, the more people respect you. Here, old people have no use. It frightens me. I feel useless. My experiences don’t benefit anyone. I have no value.... Such hostility and indifference.”
In a corporate meeting room another white professional woman calmly speaks: “I arrive in Belgium on July 15, 1999. The weather is good. I do not speak. Not a word comes out of my mouth. I sleep only two hours a night, with sleeping pills.”
In DOORS OF THE PAST, filmmaker Rosine Mbakam juxtaposes the testimonies of three Rwandan genocide survivors—Rosette, Charlotte, and Christine—with images of well-dressed white Belgian women. The resulting dissonance brilliantly collapses distance and undercuts assumptions about the lives of refugees. Seeing a well-put-together professional in a Belgian boardroom looking at us as we hear the words, “Part of my family has been decimated... I ask God to give me strength to overcome my fears” drives home the dehumanization that often clouds discourse on refugees. Mbakam subtly and powerfully demonstrates that there is no “us” and “them.”
DOORS OF THE PAST is an early work of Mbakam’s that already shows the themes which have come to inform the award-winning filmmaker’s career.