Vincent Meessen and Olivier Marboeuf in Conversation (part IV)

Trailer : Juste un Mouvement (Just a Movement)

Read Part I, Part II and Part III of the conversation between Vincent Meessen and Olivier Marboeuf

Part IV


Olivier Marboeuf: Your film in several ways raises the question of movement(s). Political movements firstly, of course, in its quest to re-think the genealogies, filiations, and circulations of radical actions between Europe and Africa. Then there is geometric movement: the line, the circle, the spiral. You notably articulate these two levels ‚Äď the aesthetic and political ‚Äď by re-enacting certain movements from La Chinoise, starting with the line: that of the tracking shot, of the railway tracks. Then comes the gyratory motif, which takes the film onto the terrain of play and imitation, of the fantasy of symmetry in asymmetry precisely. This second motif can be found in the antics of the poet Thierno Seydou Sall, who holds forth on revolution perched up on a traffic cop’s tall chair in the middle of a roundabout. Yet opposing these first movements, this at times grating geometry of copy and repetition, are the emancipatory gestures that are the spiral ‚Äď as a different repetition that gradually introduces a distance ‚Äď and the explosion ‚Äď which provokes a radical rupture in the space of forms.

Vincent Meessen:¬†The only two scenes that are taken from Godard and re-actualized are indeed the tracking shot of the class Omar gives his friends and the face-to-face encounter in a suburb train. Both times, tracks trace parallel lines. But I was immediately struck too by the architecture of two sites in Dakar that I thought important to explore in the film: Gor√©e prison, a circular-shaped old military fort where Omar succumbed to his wounds, and another much bigger and brand-new also totally circular building, the Museum of Black Civilizations, a project imagined by President Senghor but only recently realized with, and thanks to, Chinese funding. I approached them as whorls, concentric circles of different sizes. The letter O at the start of the film, a clock, a terrace at Nanterre University, the yin and yang circle, or again the Dakar roundabout you mentioned in your question offer some of the many variations disseminated throughout the film. Most of the interviews were filmed in three stages in which the camera progressively “rolled” around each interviewee. All these circumvolutions are minor gestures that, little by little, seek to go back in time, to break the vicious circle of repetition, of the continuing transmission of official history. The Thiaroye amphitheatre, a tragic site of colonial history in which an actor recites a programmatic text on theatre ‚Äď a previously unpublished text written by Omar ‚Äď brings us back to the figure of the semicircle in which the spectator faces the caesura of the tragic hero’s destiny. The aim is to open breaches in which to welcome the ghost in various ways: as much through the improvised play of actors as through the recollections of the witnesses.

Movement(s) 2

OM: The question of “just movement” is present right down to the film’s title. It is also embodied by the Senegalese Tai Chi teacher and Kung Fu champion, Doudou Fall. What, then, is the just movement you were looking for in this work?

VM: The title of the film doesn’t evoke a “just movement”, but a much humbler and measured programme: that of “just a movement”. The Tai Chi teacher indeed recommends a “just movement” to his pupils, which he defines as a movement that “does not exceed nature”. In the West, we apprehend movement in terms of its external aspect, its visible and general aspect, whereas Tai Chi, which is a practical philosophy, seeks the axis that generates movement from its interior and sensory aspect. Chinese Taoist philosophy better apprehends the inventiveness of nature. Yin and Yang are non-abstract interrelated principles; they are active, conjugated principles of the real; they intertwine and feed one another. Concerned with intermediary spaces and the intertwining of interactions, Taoism is thus the opposite of our philosophies of separation. To our subjectivity, we oppose a world that is supposedly external to it. For us, the question of the just is dual from the outset: on the one hand, justice ‚Äď that is, reason which judges on the basis of the law ‚Äď and, on the other, justness ‚Äď that is, a demonstrative reason, a rhetorical strategy that draws on stylistic devices. We could say, then, political and poetic. What I was seeking with the film was this tao, this progression towards an interrelatedness between an affair of justice and a practice of justness. The title of my film also makes reference to a saying from the film Wind from the East by the Dziga Vertov Group, the militant duo founded by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin just after the shooting of La Chinoise. Dziga Vertov, which, incidentally, means “spinning top”, was the pseudonym of “the man with the movie camera”, the avant-garde Russian filmmaker and editor David Kaufman, the man behind interval theory and ardent defender of a “non-staged” cinema rooted in life as it is. In Wind from the East appears that written insert known to all cinephiles, “ce n‚Äôest pas une image juste, c‚Äôest juste une image” (it’s not a just image, it’s just an image), a phrase Godard returns to in Histoire(s) du Cin√©ma, precisely at the moment that he incorporates the photo of a young African cinematographer working a video camera taken from his only African revolutionary experience ‚Äď his participation in setting up Mozambique’s national television. By placing the accent on movement rather than on the image, my title seeks to name the minor gesture, the minimal bifurcation that can open new narrative and critical perspectives at the very heart of an existing work.

OM: You also look at the possible and impossible emerging hybridisations of Senegalese and Chinese society…

VM: Moving away from Europe is also to anticipate blending that is taking place on very different terms to those of reason and abstract universalism, those of the grand principles imagined in Europe by those who wanted to see their particularity become the dominant norm. There is no naivety or cultural relativism on my part, then, but a curiosity in observing the terms and the dynamics of exchange that differ greatly depending on whether you are looking at the Chinese Vice-President’s cultural diplomacy, a young Chinese woman in Dakar, or the Senegalese Kung Fu master training. The Chinese think combinations and mutual reactions. There is also a film class that a Senegalese lecturer gives in Mandarin, which functions as a transcultural communication in that she addresses Chinese spectators in their language, but also cinephiles and intellectuals who will perhaps, in addition to the explicit reiteration of Godard’s scene with Omar, recognize a short extract of philosopher Jacques Ranci√®re deciphering La Chinoise, a brilliant reading indelibly marked by his own Maoist experience at the Philosophy Faculty also frequented by Omar at the time.


Omar blondin diop¬†(1946‚Äď1973) was a Senegalese militant leftist intellectual born in Niamey (Niger) and who died in prison on Gor√©e island (Senegal). As a student¬†in philosophy¬†in Paris during the 1960s, he graduated¬†from the renowned university √Čcole Normale Sup√©rieure de Saint-Cloud. Studying at the University of Nanterre, he met Jean-Luc Godard and ‚Äúplayed himself‚ÄĚ as a Maoist militant in¬†La Chinoise¬†(1967). A¬†member of¬†the F√©d√©ration des √©tudiants d‚ÄôAfrique noire en France (FEANF), he also took part in the March 22 Movement. This French student movement occupied administration buildings at Nanterre University and was at the origin of the student uprising of May ‚Äô68. Diop was expelled from France to Senegal where he briefly was a researcher at the IFAN (Institut Fondamental d‚ÄôAfrique noire), and founded¬†the Mouvement des Jeunes Marxistes-L√©ninistes (MJML),¬†a clandestine party. On presidential request, he was re-admitted to study in Paris on the condition that he would stop his political activities. Shortly after returning to Paris in 1970, two of his brothers were arrested and sentenced in Dakar. Omar left France to prepare his brothers‚Äô escape, but was preventively arrested in Bamako.

Vincent Meessen was born in Baltimore, USA, in 1971, and lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. His artistic and filmic work are woven from a constellation of figures, gestures, and signs that maintain a polemical and sensible relation to the writing of history and the westernization of imaginaries. He decenters and multiplies gazes and perspectives to explore the variety of ways in which colonial modernity has impacted the fabric of contemporary subjectivities. Both in his work as an artist and filmmaker, he likes to use procedures of collaboration that undermine the authority of the author and emphasize the intelligence of collectives. His films have been screened at numerous museums and art centers including Centre Pompidou (Paris), HKW (Berlin), MUMOK (Vienna), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid), in film festivals including IFFR (Rotterdam), IDFA (Amsterdam), Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Art of the Real (New York, Seoul), FID (Marseille) and FESPACO (Ouagadougou).
Main solo exhibitions have taken place in Montreal, Toronto, Paris, Basel, Brussels, Bordeaux, Mexico, Amsterdam.
Vincent Meessen has represented Belgium¬†at the 56th Venice Biennale with¬†Personne et les autres,¬†¬†a group show¬†with ten invited artists from four continents.¬†Recent other biennale participations¬†include¬†¬†‚Ķ and other such stories, Chicago Architecture Biennial, (2019);¬†G√©n√©alogies futures, r√©cits depuis l‚Äô√Čquateur,Biennale de Lubumbashi (2019); Proregress, 12th¬†Shanghai Biennale (2018-2019); Printemps de septembre, Toulouse (2016, 2018) and¬†Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future, Taipei Biennale (2016).
Vincent Meessen is a member of Jubilee-platform for research and artistic production.


Juste un Mouvement (Just a Movement)
a film by Vincent Meessen (color, 108 min, 2021)
Coproduction BELGIQUE / FRANCE : JUBILEE / Vincent Meessen et Inneke Van Waeyenberghe, THANK YOU & GOOD NIGHT productions / Genevi√®ve De Bauw, SPECTRE productions / Olivier Marboeuf, CBA ‚Äď Centre de l‚ÄôAudiovisuel √† Bruxelles / Javier Packer Comyn, MAGELLAN Films / Samuel Feller
With the support of: Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles , Service public francophone bruxellois, Vlaams audiovisueel fonds (VAF) et CNAP-Image/Mouvement, Centre Pompidou, Paris Mu.ZEE, Oostende, 34a Bienal de São Paulo Art et Recherche, Région Ile-de-France, Région Bretagne, Argos Centre for audiovisual arts, Belgium Federal Government Tax shelter

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