With Hinterland (FID 2009), shot in East Germany, Marie Voignier introduced us to spaces with multiple strata in which layers of History, issues of the present and the imaginary cannot be distinguished. L’hypothèse du Mokélé-Mbembé (The Hypothesis of the Mokélé- Mbembé) ploughs a similar furrow to carry us far from Europe this time towards other territories, to south-eastern Cameroon, and towards other areas of History. There, for several years, the explorer Michel Ballot has meticulously mapped out the jungle and the muddy riverbanks in search of a mysterious animal hitherto unknown to zoologists: the “Mokélé-Mbembé”, a prehistoric hybrid of rhinoceros, crocodile, snake and dinosaur. Is it a real animal or a mythological beast? Ballot investigates continuously, questioning the Pygmies, contriving to install a camera to film the river and its eddies during his absence, seeking traces, trying to find clues, pondering out loud. But what credence can be given to the numerous testimonies gathered and what might be indicated by simple sketches that myriads of hands are willing to draw for him? From this obsessive quest the contours of a ghostly Africa are drawn in negative, more imaginary than real, an object of fantasy, a mental space made of silence, stamped with a colonial vision, discrete but insistent. Suddenly, prehistory is no longer so ancient but is recent history that a solitary passion attempts to track, and that the Pygmies play at holding a mirror up to each other in which their reflection is merely the vacillating figure of the desire of the Other.
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