Visa Seekers in Africa, Prisoners at Home

in 12th Luxor African Film Festival

by Nadjib Sagna

The black and white film Citizen Kwame, which screened for the first time at the Luxor African Film Festival, portrays a veritable penitentiary where visa applicants retreat. A mental prison that can prevent a person from realizing their full potential. The film shows that it is not always easy to free oneself, since the barriers are invisible. However, it is essential to take steps to eliminate the chains that hold one back.

If the prison is a detention center or a penitentiary, a place where certain condemned people called prisoners or detainees are locked up, those who see their visa application rejected, live in a prison, since their movements are also limited, and worse, they experience mental suffering. The expression of “psychic suffering” strongly associated with exclusion infiltrates the social field and condemns the protagonist, who is also a visa applicant. This is what Yuhi Amuli shows in his film Citizen Kwame.

Citizen Kwame is a film about travel visas, which takes place entirely in a single complex. Kwame is an African man who wants to travel outside his compound, but he must first obtain a visa from a Caucasian doorman who controls the movements in and out of the gate. It is only with the help of a newly found European girlfriend that he is finally able to pull it off. “I started from my own experience of seeking a visa to return to Europe. The film is taken from my personal story. It is also a set of questions that we ask ourselves: why look for a visa to leave home? It is also a questioning of our African identity with the mind to always think that things are better elsewhere than at home” explains director Yuhi Amuli.

The film won the prize for the best cinematographic treatment at the 12th edition of the Luxor African film festival. The main actor is confined between the door of the house and the embassy and there is a kind of a ‘door fever’, which is characterized in the film by extreme anxiety when the cell door closes after each visa application is rejected. “We are exactly in a prison, a mental prison. We stay inside because we want to stay strong, with a very serene human character. As a metaphorical image, the interior represents the country, the continent, the house. The film therefore shows this prison. Where the actor, prisoner of his thoughts, dreams of a better world elsewhere,” indicates the director.

For his third participation in the Luxor Festival, Yuhi Amuli showed production in black and white, a possibility which makes Luxor so special. “The black and white is used to show the passage of time, the many trips back and forth to the white to obtain the visa. Black is a dull color that symbolizes generally negative values. Beneath its dark air, black can be associated with elegance and simplicity. It is the color that absorbs the most sunlight, so hope, unlike white which reflects it. White is also the color of absence, of the non-existent,” he underlines.

At the end of the film, we open the gate and get out of this prison which represents the metaphorical image of the life of those who want to leave this country at all costs.

Nadjib Sagna
Edited by Savina Petkova