Zinder 2021

Aicha Macky / Niger, Germany, South Africa, France / 82 mins / Hausa / Rating 15

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Content Warning: This film contains prominent use of the swastika symbol and references to violence/assault that some may find distressing.

*Please note: this film has limited viewer capacity, please book as soon as possible*

In the city of Zinder, Niger, in the heart of the Sahel, young people form gangs to deal with the lack of work and prospects. These groups called “Palais” come from the Kara-Kara district, historically home to lepers and outcasts. Zinder-born director and activist Aicha Macky returns to her hometown to tell the story of this disenfranchised youth. She talks with these men, whose bodies and the territory in which they live are profoundly scarred by the violence that has passed through them—a pervasive violence, the roots of which go back to the time of colonization. Among them: Siniya Boy, a member of the “Palais Hitler”, who wants to set up a security company with his fellow bodybuilders; and Bawa, a former Palais leader who turned taxi driver, haunted by memories of the atrocities committed. Their friends live off black market petrol, smuggled from the Nigerian border. Aicha Macky paints a moving portrait of Zinder, which she dedicates to the youth of her country.

About the director

Born in Zinder (Niger), Aicha Macky is a filmmaker and social change activist. Having trained as a sociologist, she then turned to documentaries. She has completed a Documentary Cinema Master degree and in 2016, completed the worldwide multi-award-winning film L’arbre sans fruit (The Fruitless Tree) which addresses the delicate question of infertility. In 2017, she founded her own production company, Tabous production, based in Niamey.

Aicha is an Alumni Laureate award winner of the Young African Leaders Initiative YALI, an American State programme initiated by President Barack Obama that enabled her to attend intensive courses at Staten Island University in New York on Civic Engagement in 2016. Alongside filmmaking, Aicha is a tutor in mobile cinema, as part of the USAID program, PDEVII (Peace through development) and the NGO 'Search for common Grounds.' She guides youngsters in how to facilitate debate with short films on real conflicts in a number of regions in Niger which borders countries also in conflict (Nigeria, Libya, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali). These films deal with community resilience and violent extremism. She was awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and that of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques du Niger for the quality of her artistic work. She is a participant of the “Sahelien_ne_s 2040” programme launched by the AFD (French Agency for Development) that supports 25 actors for change to tell their Sahel story and envision a different and hopeful future for 2040.

Past Showings

Friday 15th October 2021 / 7:30pm for 17 days / Online

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Director Statement

In 2004, I left my native Zinder to pursue a university education in Niamey, over 600 miles away, where I now live. I developed a distanced relationship with my hometown through short stays to visit my relatives who remained there. Zinder seemed far away, but hideous and even shameful echoes reached me —gang rapes, street battles, armed robberies, all sorts of crimes and trafficking— news that seemed like a horror story to me who grew up in that ever so quiet area at the crossroads of Sahel and the caravan trade route. This was an area where different communities (Tuaregs, Hausas, Kanuris, Fulas, Muslims, Christians) used to live in peace, although the whole society was already consumed by social divisions.

My awakening came in January 2015 as I read a piece of news in which our Minister of Interior commented on a Boko Haram flag spotted during the riots that broke out in Zinder. Youths belonging to the so-called Palais gangs were blamed...and a country that has become the last border with Europe with its so-called “hotspots” stopping would-be exiles from leaving the continent. Many people thus end up stranded in the Sahel region, which makes the local situation even worse..How to chronicle your own people, yourself, your hometown, showing how a haven of peace turns into an idle city, pointing to remedies, trying to heal the wounds and the wounded while letting those concerned speak for themselves, to experience the present time with more hope in a city searching for safety —all this was a dangerous mission for a filmmaker and her team. It took me months to get accepted. Now I am.

Siniya, Bawo, Ramsess, let me enter their own world. They have a foot inside (the gang) and a foot outside because they want to quit illegality. They have that perspective which allows us to discuss their ways of thinking. They are open to sharing their daily life and survival strategies with me. And above all, being around them keeps changing me. I understood that Kara-Kara could exist anywhere and is just a reflection of our collective behaviors and the result of a divide: them vs. us. I was born in a humble family, but on the right side of the tracks, the other side from the opposite neighborhood, with dim lights. As a child I watched them from afar. Now, as a filmmaker, sociologist and activist, discreet as a shadow, I decide to venture around that dimmer opposite hill, across that border that keeps us apart, them and myself, and bring their story over to the whole world.

- Aicha Macky