Spaces in-Between: Exile, Emigration, and the Performance of Memory in Zahra’s Mother Tongue

Diogenes 62 (1):38-47 (2015)
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In her 2011 documentary, La Langue de Zahra/Zahra’s Mother Tongue, Algerian/French filmmaker Fatima Sissani “gives voice” to her Kabyle mother, Zahra, who lived in France as an immigrant woman for years after Algerian independence without speaking French. Often considered uneducated and ignorant, these women act as archives of oral tradition, history, and poetry in a language their children often do not speak. In this paper, I will look at how this performative documentary film creates “spaces in-between” cultures through its uses of performance, orality, and cinematic space. A number of recent Maghrebi and sub-Saharan African documentaries have emerged that can be described as performative documentaries in which historical evocation and emotive connection to the subject matter is as important to the filmmaker as factual referencing. The filmmaker plays a self-reflexive role in the text, which often shapes the content.It is important to note that the film is not about being forced to choose between two ge...



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