Samira Vera Cruz is Cabo Verdean and she is a filmmaker. She majored in film studies with a minor in Global Communication at the American University of Paris (AUP), in France. Though Samira is a film director she states, “I never thought I’d be a director. I was pretty convinced I would always be a producer and/or editor.”
However, upon returning to Cabo Verde she wrote her first film script. It was then that “a friend of mine convinced me to be the one directing my first short film, Buska Santu (Holy Pursuit).” Therefore she went ahead and directed Buska Santu. Of the experience she says, “That was my first real experience as a director and even though we had no financing for the film it had some success.”
Buska Santo is a short fiction film, inspired by the film, The Bicycle Thief by Vittorio de Sica. The film shows us the relationship between a father and his son, in the island of Santiago, Cabo Verde. It was screened in Cabo Verde, Portugal and Mozambique and won the prize for best fiction film at the Oiá Film Festival in Mindelo, Cabo Verde.
Upon filming Buska Santu Samira went on to establish her own production company, Parallax Produções. Through Parallax Produções she has produced other film projects.
Of her most recently released film works is Hora di Bai (Time to Go). The film was financed by Short Films PALOP-TL UE 25 Years; it’s a grant provided for filmmakers by the European Union in African countries where Portuguese is the official language.
Hora di Bai has become widely seen as it has been screened in various film festivals in 16 countries from Cape Vere, Morocco, United States of America, Angola, Macau and many more.
Hora di Bai, as stated by Samira, “is a film that talks about the relationship with death in the island of Santiago, Cabo Verde.” Of her experience directing Hora di Bai Samira says, “Everything changed from directing the film. I believe It was a turning point in my career.”
SAMIRA’S AMBITION FOR FILMMAKING IN CAPE VERDE: ONE ON ONE WITH SAMIRA
Can you talk about filmmaking in Cape Verde?
There was a strong film culture in the 50s and even the 60s in Cabo Verde. There was a lot that was done especially in the Cabo Verde island of São Vicente. There was even a western made with only one horse that was painted on and through very rustic special effects multiplied to make it look like they had many more horses. That goes to show that we were always resilient, we were always creative and finding ways of showcasing our creativity.
There is a new movement emerging of filmmakers who are making film productions against all odds. I am very proud of them. The main challenge is most definitely the lack of money. It influences everything from not having sufficient equipment, not being able to hire a bigger team, paying actors, etc.
Is there support for Cabo Verdean filmmakers from Cabo Verde institutions, government or private?
Unfortunately Cabo Verde is a country where the government and private companies do not understand the importance of investing in filmmaking, at least for the time being. Filmmaking decisions, financing programs or even any kind of other help are still very political and dependent on the governing party’s political agenda.
That makes it very difficult to make a film, short or feature in Cabo Verde. Fortunately, this young generation doesn’t stop and is looking for financing programs from abroad and creating the means to make amazing films in Cabo Verde.
Why This current state and what can be done to change it?
Quite honestly, I have a hard time answering this question because no explanation I come up with can ever be a valid one. I boil it down to ignorance and lack of vision. I don’t believe that the institutions and companies that could help, as it happens in so many other countries, are aware of the power of filmmaking and how much money it can bring to our country.
I talk about money because that seems to be the only thing that motivates them (governing parties), but we can also talk about how filmmaking creates jobs for people who are unemployed. Filmmaking can create awareness for so many issues we are facing.
Even if we didn’t produce films of our own and we just provided service for foreign companies, i.e., doing the local production, it would still be a very lucrative business (I refuse to call it “Industry” because we don’t have the numbers for that yet).
Therefore, what can Cabo Verdean filmmakers do at this moment?
I think that the only thing we can do at the moment is continue producing and never lower our heads. There are a lot of people abroad that are interested in helping and unfortunately we will continue being Cesárias for now in our country. That is, recognized abroad first and then eventually in our country.
SAMIRA’S MOST RECENTLY COMPLETED FILM PROJECT
Samira’s most recently completed film project, And Who Will Cook?, has been selected to South Africa’s film festival, Talents Durban, 2019. Samira says, “E Quem Cozinha? (And Who Will Cook?), tells the story of Patrica. She is abandoned by her biological father and also by her son’s father. Due to her hereditary blindness she is labeled by society as not enough of a woman.
Patricia is a mirror of the Cape Verdean woman and their challenges in a matriarchal society that is still undeniably stained by machismo. When faced with men that question who will cook for them, Patricia takes us in a journey that questions the role of women and how society views and treats people with visual limitations.
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