An all-female documentary on the road through Senegal.
Greta Ilia Cavaliere, Simona Cella and Maème Diop are the creators of an all-female on the road documentary through Senegal. The project tells the story of five Senegalese girls living in Italy who decide to set out to discover their country of origin, a concrete journey but also a path of growth personal and collective, a plural, militant, feminist and luminous voice that addresses one of the most topical issues of contemporary Italy: the struggle of second generations and Afro-descendant girls for the recognition of their multiple identities.
The documentary addresses the complex experience of dual identity: the vital need to return to one’s origins meets the fear of crossing an unknown land that seems to be located at a sidereal distance from the everyday life of teenagers and young women raised in the Milanese metropolis and dazzled by the chimeras of fashion, cinema, and social networks.
The protagonists of the project
Marème, Khady, Meye, Fama, Sofia Aicha live in Corvetto, a southern suburb of Milan. Their age range from 12 to 24 and, although they are from different families, they have grown up together as in a keur gou mak, which in Wolof means the “big family home”. Their identity is fragmented and united at the same time: the Italian one linked to the present, to everyday life, to the constant discovery of growing up, to the place where they live and discover themselves, and the Senegalese one, made up of blurred and fragmented memories that they now feel and need to stitch together with a journey to the discovery of one’s roots. In the wake of memories, fears and desires they will visit their families of origin retracing their country’s past, confronting the contradictions of the present and discovering the possibilities of a future where Senegal is interconnected with the world.
As Greta Cavaliere tells us: “The story of the journey takes the form of a collective documentary consisting of five stories that will be uploaded individually to a Youtube channel and Instagram page and will later take the form of a feature film. Each traveler will use her own journal that will accommodate ideas, drawings, pictures, and objects from her own story. The starting point for each film is a city, a memory or a wish. The rest is improvised realism. The camera lens becomes a filter for emotions, words, images, memories, dreams, and desires that arise from the interweaving of these five familiar stories of exile and resilience“.
A journey of growth, formation, self-inquiry, relationship with family, being daughters and women, an intimate and organic account of the exclusive relationship the five girls have with their home country.
The shooting for Eleonora Lastrucci
In the summer of 2023, prior to the filming of the three-month documentary in Senegal exploring Dakar, Thiès, Djourbel, Touba, Mbour, Ndangane, and Bignona, a collaboration was born with haute couture designer and costume designer for theater and cinema Eleonora Lastrucci. For many years now, the designer has been participating with her clothes in the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival and the Rome Film Festival, dressing celebrities from the world of cinema and beyond during the Red Carpet, parties and social events surrounding the film festivals. Not only that, her dresses are also worn by female presenters of major television networks. Many are his “testimonials,” from personalities from the world of music to theater dancers, from movie actresses to stars of the small screen. The models were made according to his idea of beauty, which is more objective than people think, but proudly brings Made in Italy to the world.
Inserting themselves in new places, seeking authenticity and spontaneity, letting the space speak for itself, the bodies moved freely and so did the camera, which followed and directed, trying to shape itself from time to time. The clothes, with their strong identity, were able to fit into a new context even to themselves. Meanwhile, the journey continued, and the experiences accumulated, and the gaze on Senegal changed. The narrative focus was naturally on the authentic and unfiltered view of the Afro world and its multiple identities. Cinema and fashion photography are tools capable of visually immortalizing an inclusive idea, where self-expression becomes a vehicle for social and political meanings, because clothing is an identity tool, and collective at the same time, of a community.
The collective imagination about Senegal is mostly distorted, made up of only colors, exoticism. But it is not just that: in this documentary, the search for the self passes through different moments and moods, in which one tries to be rocked by the ocean, listens to calm nature, or the sounds and voices of a crowded metropolis.
But how does fashion fit into this context? How do bodies move on these roads so different, so far apart? “We investigated the Western fashion tradition and its gaze on Africa: the director lays his narrative gaze not by interpreting a world made up of signs far removed from his code, but by trying to tell the story on the ground, seeking the authenticity and spontaneity of the narrative itself, speaking to the places, and the places speaking to us“, Greta concludes.
Greta Ilia Cavaliere, graduate in Philosophy and Publishing between Milan and Paris, after a period of artistic residency in Holland at Richter Art Gallery, began studying and working at the Italian Institute of Photography, later becoming an independent photographer and videomaker. He made his first short film Au Bonheur des Dames in 2020, which was presented during the Milan PhotoFestival 2020, as part of the Venti Rosa festival, and later participated in the Salerno Film Festival.
Simona Cella, a Cinema History graduate with a thesis on Djibril Diop Mambéty, specializes in developing feature and documentary film projects on Africa. She is the author of subjects and screenplays and writes about film for magazines specializing in Africa. She is co-curator with Cinzia Quadrati of the book Djibril Diop Mambéty or the Hyena’s Journey with a foreword by Martin Scorsese (Harmattan Editions).
Maème Diop, a Communications and Multimedia graduate from the University of Pavia, interested in Community Managing loves creating content for Social Media Marketing. A fashion model, she posed for Vogue Arabia in 2020, and did several editorials published worldwide.