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 – that is, reason which judges on the basis of the law – and, on the other, justness – 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’est pas une image juste, c’est juste une image” (it’s not a just image, it’s just an image), a phrase Godard returns to in Histoire(s) du Cinéma, 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 – 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 Rancière deciphering La Chinoise, a brilliant reading indelibly marked by his own Maoist experience at the Philosophy Faculty also frequented by Omar at the time.