“Nome”: in the fabulous footsteps of a revolutionary cinema project, in Guinea-Bissau


The rare gem of the week is called Nome , the third feature film by the Guinea-Bissau director Sana Na N’Hada, born in 1950, which the parallel section of the Independent Cinema Association for its distribution, in Cannes, had the happy idea of selecting in 2023. This autobiographical fiction does not only retrace the war waged against the Portuguese occupier, from 1963 to 1974, before the “carnation revolution” of 1974 in Portugal and the declaration of independence of the Guinea-Bissau, small country in West Africa. Its fantastic texture is enriched with archives of the guerrilla war, silent, parasitized, filmed by the director at the time, with the aim of documenting the struggle.

Sana Na N’Hada was 17 years old in 1967 when he left to study cinema in Cuba, with other young people who would make a name for themselves – Flora Gomes, Josefina Lopes Crato, José Bolama -, on the initiative of the respected leader Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973), founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, then supported by the Soviet Union. The filmers held the camera for three years, then had to wait before discovering their rushes, or rather what was left of them, due to bad weather and the negligence of the authorities. The treasure of Nome appears all the more precious, which takes us on the fabulous trail of a revolutionary cinema project.

“Homonym”

It is 1969, and echoes of the war of independence reach the small village where Nome (Marcelino Antonio Ingira) lives, an indolent young man whom his mother (Marta Dabo) describes as good for nothing. The inhabitants are hungry, even if they maintain their rice fields and make a living from fishing in the waters teeming with fish. A short, splendid scene allows us to discover the romantic complicity between Nome and her cousin, Nambu (Binete Undonque), while the latter fills her net.

But Nambu’s soon rounded belly plunges Nome into perplexity. Unable to bear the idea of being banished for having made her pregnant, he leaves without saying a word and joins the underground. Nambu faces tragedy while Nome accomplishes her feats of arms. But the taciturn man who returns from the front is not a hero. Nome wants his share of the pie, becomes a businessman… What went wrong?, the filmmaker – also author of Xime (1994), chronicle of a Guinea-Bissau village – wonders, while his country, since 1974, has experienced four putsches, several coup attempts…

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