OM: Even though Omar’s suicide is called into question and uncertainties surround the circumstances of his death, Just a Movement isn’t really an enquiry in the criminal sense of the term, but rather a kind of political and poetic enquiry into the traces and the heart of Omar’s legacies. These legacies are in many respects speculative in your film, where you choose to focus on Senegal and its current struggles, and to propose a possible actualization of a phantom’s desires.
VM: It isn’t an enquiry into his death, but rather a film about his survival. My project was twofold from the start: firstly, to paint a portrait of Omar by listening to the relations lived, and thus to allow the Senegalese to be able to debate this figure, his legacy, and the meaning of his engagements anew. But being neither a historian nor a documentary filmmaker, it was important for me to reinforce this portrait-in-his-absence – and that can thus be qualified as spectral – with a cinematographic experimentation capable of connecting the projections and desires of yesterday with those formulated today. To be able, at the same time, to portray Chinese-Senegalese relations from Omar’s Maoist phase to the stakes of the current state’s bargaining with China, to sound out the young generation of militants’ relationship to the figure of political martyr, or again, to try to elucidate the way in which Omar embodies a blind spot in Godard’s cinema. Proposing a possible actualization of the phantom’s desires, as you suggest, is indeed to take seriously the survival of the dead, who continue to haunt a scene, whether artistic or political. It happens that Omar haunts both of these scenes like a tragic hero. He troubled both Senegalese politics under Senghor, of which the current authorities are the heirs, Godard’s cinema, or again the performances of Issa Samb and his Laboratoire Agit’Art peers.
OM: What is quite striking in the form too is the way that this portrait endeavor also espouses Omar Blondin Diop’s complexity and contradictions, freeing itself of the mirror form by choosing that of the crystal, which diffracts the gaze towards multiple trajectories, friendships, and temporalities. Omar is turned into a kind of vast territory that we explore, and which is recounted by multiple voices, translated, interpreted – in both the sense of an actor’s performance and an actualization.
VM: Out of all translators, interpreters are the ones who are capable of translating out loud, live, from one language to the next. Their work includes the performative dimension of live performance. We were indeed attempting to interpret rather than to translate as we freely improvised from a few key sequences of La Chinoise. Godard was constituting cinema as an experimental machine at the time, one intended no longer simply to interpret, but to transform the gaze and the world around him. It was with this film that he understood the need not for political film, but to film politically, that is, to deconstruct the whole process of making and distributing a film. And he has ever since remained faithful to this lesson he learned by working in his own way and with others.
My film mixes a form of interpretation with testimony so that, if we want to use an analogy, more than the reflections of a crystal, I’d say, rather, the intertwining of a complex knot, like those tried and handed down in string games in ancient times. In addition to creating abstract geometric forms, we know that these games, which are common to nearly all civilizations, were associated with mythical, utilitarian or situated tales. Every loop of the string, every movement, was memorized as a stage progressing in a narration. Cinema could be seen as the animation of these forms, like the actualization of the string play tradition and their pedagogy based on abstract motifs that are always related to a lived experience, a gesture, a body. I also used “string tricks”, or processes – mise-en-scene, montage – to weave together an existing film with a film-in-the-making in which the witnesses themselves knot together a figure who continues to inhabit them: Omar. They knew him in different circumstances and at different times of his very short life. While the film does respect a chronological progression in Omar’s trajectory, it is not necessarily linear; rather it adopts a fragmented temporality comprised of serpentine to-ing and fro-ing, loops that the dichotomies between the evocations of the past and a series of actualizing gestures leave open. The testimonies of those who intervene crisscross, complement, or sometimes contradict one another without anyone being able to pin down or grasp the individual. My film ends on the reiterating of the enigma concerning the multiplicity of this evolving character, which signifies that, ultimately, no one can possess Omar. With these interviews, we are thus in … “the inbetween”. All that has happened in common, and yet is always contested, generates a politics of memory.