Documentary: The Fruitless Tree (L'Arbre sans fruit)
Winner of the 2016 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) Documentary Prize.
The Fruitless Tree by Aïcha Macky: Woman among mothers, an analysis by Olivier Barlet (Source: Africultures. Translated from French by Beti Ellerson).
Aïcha Elhadj Macky was only five years old when her mother died after childbirth. It is this trauma that Aïcha, who is married, still without children, reconstructs in this film about infertility and its disorder. She starts with childbirth: the calm and the advice of the midwife, the fatigue of the mother, the arrival of the child. Then a spoken letter that refers back to it: "Dear Mother, behind the camera, I tremble throughout my body"; before concluding: "In my sleepless nights, your spirit guides my steps."
This film builds on the emotion of this personal implication, as an interrogation of society, a question posed to all of us. The task was not easy, as the subject remains taboo in Nigerien society. How to convince one to share? How to film a face that does not want to be seen? Aïcha Macky accomplishes this very well. With her small technical team, she has an eye for detail, the lighting, the mood. The camera, the editing, are of great tenderness. The testimonials are subtle conversations, where she displays the quality of attentiveness, of glances, of silences. It was necessary to have this level of sensitivity in order to show these very delicate issues in an environment where sex remains a taboo subject, where a woman does not have the right to go uncovered.
… Must one have a child in order to accomplish her personal life as a woman? For Aïcha, who is labeled as a "tree without fruit," it was with this film that she could assert herself above all as a woman among mothers—a place that requires courage and determination, but that will give courage to the many women confronted with men’s indifference towards their suffering, the suspicion and rejection of husbands and their families, the taking of co-wives to ensure fertility... Women's rights are perceptively discussed, clearly but without a banner, notably through the comments of an imam at the Islamic school who encourages pursuing a divorce if the marriage does not lead to the woman’s enjoyment and pleasure in the same way it does for the man, and to file a grievance to the religious leaders in the case of refusal.
This is the unspoken that Aïcha confronts head-on. She is not satisfied to only denounce the plight of women who are rejected because of infertility; on the basis of the testimony of those who fight for their dignity, she demands the ability to control one’s own destiny. This film, hence, is a project; not only to correct these practices, but also and above all to tell through word and image; and in this way to speak to the world and contribute to change.