Gaspard Noé: You have been to Africa severals
times, even before going there to film, right?
Hubert Sauper: Yes, Kisangany Diary was made at the end
of a long stay, actually my first. Aside from that I
lived briefly in Tanzania in ‘97 working with a
friend that had opened a production company. This was
the first such business in Tanzania’s history. I
helped out in making TV commercials for the national
Tanzanian soap, know as the Findi or Winner, a sort of
long yellow baguette that you cut pieces off of. This
soap was used to wash yourself, for laundry, cars,
boats, airplanes ... It was during the shooting of an
airplane washing scene that I met these Russian pilots
that later played a role in Darwin’s Nightmare.
that wasn’t actually the town where you filmed
Darwin’s Nightmare? Why did you go there
first trip was for the soap.
this town and not another?
just worked out that way, I don’t quite remember.
My friend had landed a bunch of contracts and had asked
me to help out in making these ads as he was
overwhelmed. We spent a whole month crossing Tanzania.
I already had a project in mind dealing with the
refugies in the The Congo, as the air lifts had been
removed from Tanzania. I had already been in touch with
the UN. Then after meeting the Russians, I went back to
see the UN, “so there, I know a few pilots, can
you take me along in the planes?” and I was off
to the east of the The Congo with my partner Suzanna.
what the heck was she doing there?
She played the accordian. No, she actaully did a bunch
of things. She took care of the children. We were
discovering Africa. We were meeting a lot of people,
and I was preparing this documentary. And the only way
to get into the Congo, was via the UN transport
planes. So the end of my 6-7 month
stay in Africa, was a month and a half in the Congo.
you use a professional film camera?
it was this crappy Hi 8.
thing is that the sound is surprisingly clear.
clear, since the people I am filming are relatively
close, and there are no highways near by.
I remember, you have this shot with a bunch of kids and
this guy getting up, and the image is rough looking
with really big grain, but the sound is super clear.
just the mike from the camera, because there’s no
noise. That’s the advantage of filming in the
jungle, everything is very present.
making documentary films these days, it no longer
crosses your mind to do it in 16mm? The whole process
of putting the reel in the camera, changing it, knowing
that you need to stop in 10 min, develop the negative
... a lot more complicated than using a camera like the
Panasonic DVX100 ...
guess it all depends on your level of concentration.
Sometimes when you need to film a lot, it is hard to
back to Africa, in comparison to the west, death is
delt with on a daily basis. Everyone is telling you
that they have lost half their children, that their
brother is dead ... You say it is a sort of general
hecatombe, but suprisingly, I don’t have the
impression that they themselves feel they are punished,
I mean for them, the hardships they endure, having lost
a child, or the wife that has lost an eye ...
they’ve taken so many blows for such a long time.
I think this is so much more than just a part of their
lives, but the mourning
associated with the loss of a child is
the same. 100 years ago in Europe, it was just as common to
watch your child die.
you seen the film Children Underground (Edet Belzberg,
2000)? It’s about these kids that live in the
subway in Roumania. These kids that have been
abandonned by their families. This little girl gets
raped, yet when you see her hideous step-father
threatening her, who’s a meter taller than her,
you can understand why she would prefer to live in the
subway surrounded by all these other kids that hit her.
When it comes to human cruelty, documentaries can go so
much further than films.
can play a better role of representation if it is used
as cinema. Documentary is too often thought of as a
news report, a sort of illustrated text in our minds. I
just try to see the firemen when they arrive, and to
hear their voices when they arrive. When one does that,
who does he think I am? Does he think that I
can’t see the firemen arrive? Am I considered an
idiot? If considered an idiot, the mind will go to
sleep after three times. We don’t just loose our
attention span, but also all sense of responsibility,
because this voice is explaining everything we see. If
you want to fly an airplane, you need a licence, or
even a car, you need a licence. If you spread idiotic
images throughout the world, you don’t need
anything, anyone is free to do so. It’s quite
strange, as there ought to be responibility associated
with the making of images and sound without the
in the process of looking for special effects for my
next film, which has lead me to watch all the
Armaggedon, Apollo 13, ... science fiction films ...
I’ve watched about 60 films. In conclusion, you
realise that it’s all propaganda film making.
It’s all the self confident Americans,
sympathetically sending their
people to go fight martians or the destruction of the
world. It’s always the Americans going off and
saving everything. This doesn’t exist in Italian
cinema or French cinema.
it’s all part of a much longer