Diaries from an intrepid filmmaker (1)

No matter how experienced you are in documentary filmmaking and all things African – no shoot is like any other. And in particular, this shoot is like no other. Trapped in what has been described a 'closed society' – the Bijagós archipelago – Noé Mendelle struggles to find some sense of balance between traditional and modern influences. When a blog becomes your only place to vent, irony is inevitable. Raw, unfiltered and dispatched on the same day, here is the latest post in her series

Day 3 of travelling

It seems that we are reaching Bubaque, one of the main islands in the archipelago of Bijagós, off the West Coast of Africa. Pitch dark over sea and sky.


It took flights from Edinburgh to Lisbon to Casablanca to Bissau. And then a boat from Bissau that managed to get lost, break down twice, and now has to move against the current. We have been on it for ten hours and still a long way to go!

People are sitting on the floor or a few hard benches. Considering it is taking twice the time planned, people are really friendly and sociable. Of course, a mini service industry is doing well, with women selling food and drinks they bought in Bissau.

Once upon a time, the youths would have got a party going with drums, songs and dance. But no longer... They are too busy looking cool with their MP3 players, listening to rap. In many ways, this embodies what we are hoping to find out in our film: how modernity is affecting a traditional society.

The Bijagós have a very old matrilineal society that is only just starting to face crisis. It is based entirely on the younger people serving the elders in exchange for their secret knowledge. But modernity is luring the youth into a different lifestyle, and the elders must make serious choices: either compromise on tradition or lose the young ones and therefore the future of the Bijagós.

Over the next three weeks, we will be in search of our characters, and this diary will follow our challenges in filming in the Bijagos, a closed society.


Read all of Noé's updates from the Bijagós so far.