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“Maka,” screening and Q&A with Geneviève Makaping and Simone Brioni

(Photo courtesy of: Julian Viviescas Mejia) “Students enjoyed getting to talk with the creator of the movie after the screening.”

Julian Viviescas Mejia
Connector Contributor

On Wednesday September 28, UMass Lowell hosted the screening of “Maka,” an award-winning documentary about Geneviève Makaping, the first woman of African descent to be the director of a newspaper in Italy. This event is part of the Dean’s Speaker Series and was organized by Dr. Giulia Po DeLisle and the Departments of World Languages and Cultures, with the collaboration of the English and History Departments.

The documentary screened in front of students and faculty of the English, History, and World Languages Departments at Coburn Hall. The film was followed by a Q&A with Dr. Makaping herself, and Professor Simone Brioni, the screenwriter of the film.

“In the film, we are talking about the history of my people, the Africans, and the immigrants,” said Makaping. “The rest of the world should change their view on how they see Africa.”

The film is based on Makaping’s book “Traiettorie di Sguardi. E se gli altri foste voi?” translated last year to “Reversing the Gaze: What If the Other Were You?,” a foundational text of Black Italian Studies. In the book, she explores the idea of identity and inequality through her experiences of moving from Cameroon to France and then Italy.

The book and the film confront the question of racism and colonization by describing Makaping’s experiences as a Black journalist and woman in Italy and the racist aggressions received daily.

“For the umpteenth time I find out that I am different and that it is because of my pigmentation,” said Makaping in the film.

Simone Brione, an associate professor in the Department of English at Stony Brook University, and co-author of two other documentaries including Maka, talked about his experience working with Makaping and Elia Moutamid, the director of the film.

“Talking about racism is very difficult, especially from my position,” said Brioni on the Q&A with students.

In the film, Brioni and Moutamid appear on screen and the director discusses important ideas related to his filmmaking and reflecting on his identity. Brioni stressed the importance of collaboration and dialogue when shooting the film. “The film was just not the shooting but a long process, a complex process,” said Brioni. “Making a film is always a collective endeavor, so there were many people involved in the dialogues.”

Makaping highlighted the thought process behind making the film. “Here we’re talking about a scientific work, done methodically, with an approach very dear to the social sciences,” said Makaping. “Here the words and movements really pursue a thought, and from this point of view Simone was great, that is, to be able together with the director to put into images the things I thought or dreamed.”

Dr. Giulia Po DeLisle, associate professor of Italian studies at UMass Lowell, is teaching “Black Italy,” a course that brings forth films, readings, and discussions of colonization and migration in Italy.

“The course responds to the need to bring to the academia a deeper discourse about colonialism and migration which is critical in today’s date,” said Po DeLisle. “We cannot relegate it to a one unit of a broader Italian cultural course, it deserves more attention and investigation, so I am very grateful that I am able to teach this class and bring voice to the work and art of many Afro Italian artists and intellectuals.”

The Department of World Languages and Cultures is devoting a Global Film Series to the question of migration. With the support of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the Asian American Center for Excellence and Engagement, and the Saab Center in Portuguese Studies, the series has been designed to delve into the phenomenon of migration with an array of films from multiple countries to capture diverse narrative, cultures, and experiences from around the world.

“Our goal is to offer a space outside the classroom to reflect and exchange ideas on the challenges of human migration and show different experiences from different parts of the world,” said Po DeLisle. “Each migratory experience is different and unique, but it touches every one of us.”

The Global Series Films will screen five more works throughout the remaining school year at the Luna Theater (free and open to public):

1. October 25 at 5:05: “18 IUS SOLI – The Strange Case of Citizenship in Modern Italy” by Fred Kudjo Kuwornu (Italy).

2. November 16 at 7:05: “Aujourd’hui” by Alain Gomis (French-Senegal).

3. February 22 at 7:05: “A Gaiola Dourada” by Ruben Alves (Portugal).

4. March 21 at 7:05: “Le Meilleur pays du monde” by Ky Nam Le Duc (Canada).

5. April 18 at 7:05: “Big Fight in Little Chinatown” by Karen Cho (Canada).

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