55-year-old Demba is about to retire after 30 years of service at the city hall in his small town in Northern Senegal. That hot summer, as the 2-year anniversary of his wife’s passing approaches, he realizes he just can’t “shake it off.” As his mental health deteriorates, he discovers a new connection with his once estranged son.
Grief and depression are so alike that for years, the American Psychiatric Association has urged doctors not to diagnose major depression in individuals who have recently lost a loved one. But what does that mean for a society that does not have a word for depression and where psychosocial disorders remain a taboo?
Can Demba recover from his loss without losing himself?
One of the most vivid memories from which this project sparked is the morning I learnt of my mother’s death. I woke up and my house was filled with neighbors sobbing and crying. What struck me the most was the silence when I walked out of my room. In part, I’m this child who adults didn’t know how to talk to. I remember their looks and unease as I received awkward hugs and caresses on the head. Demba explores the tension between grief and healing, belonging and estrangement, mental health and psychiatric disorders through the life of a middle-aged man. The idea originated from a genuine question: how can a society that doesn’t have a word for “depression” deal with it?
Mamadou Dia is a Senegalese director who obtained his master’s degree in Directing / Writing from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. His feature film Baamum Nafi (Nafi’s Father in Fulani) premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2019 where he won the best first feature award and the golden leopard in the section “Filmmakers of the Present”. The film has been shown in over 80 festivals worldwide and was Senegal’s official entry for the Oscars 2021. With his company Joyedidi co-founded with Maba Ba, they toured Senegal with an inflatable screen to show the film in open air places.
Growing up in Senegal, Maba often told and heard stories around candles entertaining his family while waiting for the electricity to come back on. At a very young age he appreciated the unlimited power of stories. After studying Computer Science at Old Dominion University, he moved to New York to study 3D animation and acting. He immersed himself in the Film, Tech and 3D animation world.
Maba is an actor, producer, and director with titles like #WarGames (MGM), Christmas Wedding Baby (Netflix) Samedi Cinema (TIFF, Venice) and Men or Mice (Urbanworld).
Winter 2023, Matam (Senegal)
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