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WHY THIS FILM NEEDS TO BE MADE
Due to the influence of institutions like the Catholic Church and Hollywood, the Western idea of voodoo often involves mysterious rites, bloody offerings, possession, and the belief in dark powers. For the people of West Africa, however, voodoo is much more than that. Voodoo is a gift from their ancestors, an all-encompassing view of the world, which is supposed to give purpose and meaning to life. To them, voodoo, vaudou or vodoun is a guideline to the comings and goings of everyday life.
It may seem self-evident, but due to the emphasis that is mostly put on the exotic aspects of vodoun we often forget that these people are looking for answers to the same fundamental questions of life that also occupy us. Vodoun has given them satisfying answers for centuries. The rituals it prescribes are helpful for facing the uncertainties of life, they give comfort where comfort is needed, and give hope for a better future whenever despair threatens to paralyze them.
In the film we experience everyday life, listen to the stories told by the elders and attend ceremonies in places that are normally off-limits.
Our friends in Benin are proud of their traditions, and they want to showcase their pride. They are being overwhelmed by influences that are supposed to convince them that our Western way of living is superior to theirs. It’s about time that they can now show us that there are other ways of celebrating life. With this film we want to offer them a platform for this.
In 2016, during one of our travels, we meet Gilbert Djofin and Mama Hounza Tognon. Gilbert is a jovial and cheerful advocate of children’s rights, who has shown concern for the plight of the children in the many inaccessible voodoo convents in southwest Benin. Mama Hounza Tognon is the president of all Vodoun chiefs in the region. Gilbert is both a children’s rights advocate and a voodoun man. He has a foot in both camps, being involved with both the modern world and a world that is dominated by centuries-old traditions.
During our first meeting they tell us about their attempts to, together with the vodoun chiefs, search for a balance between respecting those old traditions and meeting the requirements for the children’s education posed by modern society. That meeting forms the beginning of a unique friendship and a close collaboration that was destined to have this film as a result.
By now, the people of Kenouhoué, the village where Gilbert and his family live, have accepted us as part of their own family. They have also become convinced that their ancestors and the voodoos sent us there with this special mission to build a bridge between our world and their world.
For them, coincidence doesn’t exist.
Coincidence only exists for people who do not want to know.
WHAT WE NEED
Since 2017, we have visited Benin on three occasion and filmed during fifteen weeks in total. Hundreds of hours of footage were shot on location, and, together with the villagers, we watched, translated, and provided explanation for dozens of hours of scenes. We have cut down the footage to a raw cut of about 90 minutes. So far, we have been able to pay for and manage everything by ourselves.
For the post-production of the video and audio, we will require the help of specialists. For over a year now, the voodoos of Benin have been asked to help us bring this project to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to hire editors with mere good will. Therefore we are asking for your financial support.
We hope to make a donation extra attractive with unique rewards such as postcards, blessed necklaces, photos or even a consultation with the bokonon in Benin.
For these rewards we thank
We are very proud to have ambassadors from differents nationalities, colour and gender. This highlights the universal nature of our film.
dodji amouzouvi (BENIN)
Dodji Amouzouvi is professor of sociology at the university Abomey-Calavi in Benin. As a champion for an honest image on vodun, he holds positions in various organizations in the fields of sociology, anthropology and religion.
"The first Western revelations about the vodun were made by missionaries, merchants and military. They discovered a universal religion and demonized it for their own self-interest. They tried to convince African peoples that God and the white culture are superior. All the other Gods were presented as devils and demons.
It is a duty and necessity to dismantle all cliché’s, prejudices and misconceptions. That is why I welcome and support the filmmakers' initiative to present the Vodun ain its pure form.
WADE DAVIS (Colombia)
Wade Davis is perhaps the most articulate and influential western advocate for the world's indigenous cultures. A National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.
“The African Vodoun is not a black magic cult; it is a complex metaphysical worldview. The word, itself, is derived from the Fon term for spirit, or god. That such a profound spiritual tradition has been so thoroughly misunderstood and thoughtlessly denigrated is no accident of history; it is a reflection of a long and ignoble history that began as slavery spawned racism, as Europeans, in particular, systematically dehumanized and debased African peoples and cultures, if only to be able to rationalize their heinous and morally repugnant deeds. We all need to acknowledge this truth, even as we support all efforts to reveal the true spiritual wonder of the African legacy.
I wish Herma, Niek and the team all the very best, as they tell this story, and thank them for their persistence and dedication”.
PHILIPPE CHARLIER (FranCE)
Philippe Charlier is a physician, archaeologist and anthropologist and scientific director of the internationally known musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris, France.
"Vodoun is much more than a religion, it is a culture, an art of living, and of being, for humans, in complete communion with nature and the gods. In Benin, the practice of vodoun is often not exclusive, but it allows everyone to cling to fundamental values, where deceased ancestors are still present, active, and useful for the community of the living. Every gesture is considered. Every moment is important. Nothing is left to chance... or maybe it's the gods who roll the dice?
In this documentary, the directors tried to show this daily life in a village community, and the way in which vodoun is part of life, in which voodoo is life. It is a difficult exercise, and the immersion is not easy. We can congratulate the directors for this work, for the aesthetics of their documentary, and the desired goal”
MARIAN MARKELO (NETHERLANDS / SURINAME)
Marian Markelo is a leading traditional Winti priestess. As a board member of NiNsee (National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy) she is committed to spreading her knowledge of Winti and keeping the past alive.
Every year during Keti Koti, the annual celebration of the slavery past, she offers a libation for the ancestors and gods and expresses the desire and need for equal opportunities for all.
"Winti originated as a religion and philosophy in Suriname after the African diaspora. Despite a legal ban in colonial times, the slaves remained attached to the culture and traditions of their African ancestors. It is an honor to be an ambassador for this documentary that respectfully and dignifiedly portrays voodoo culture as it has been experienced for centuries. The image is stripped of all the wrong ingredients that predominate in films about non-Western spirituality.
This documentary is an important step in the renaissance of West African spirituality.
The filmmakers can use your contribution very well and that is why I ask for your generous financial support.
MARC ARBOGAST/MUSEUM CHÂTEAU VODOUN (FRANCE)
Marc Arbogast founded the museum Château Vodou in 2014 to showcase the exceptional collection of vodou objects that he assembled since the 60th, on travels to the African continent with his wife Marie Luce. The museum hosts a collection that is unique, both by its size and its content: More than 1200 Vodou objects, 220 of which make up the permanent exhibition "Vodou: the art of seeing differently". Every exhibit has been used as part of religious practices: ancestor worship, medicine, divination, witchcraft and other major life events. Through an evocative display, visitors may discover a fascinating culture and a belief system that is still widely practised today.
The museum's collections originate in Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria. Their mysteries are showcased in an exceptional location: a water tower from 1878.
For the last six years, artistic and scientific creation has been considered one of our main missions at the Vodou Museum in Strasbourg. We value innovative projects, which seek to conserve and protect this West African heritage. This is why we have naturally chosen to support the documentary "Living with the voodoos". The production of a documentary in the land of Vodou is not an easy task. Yet it is an essential task to preserve and explain these cults and rituals. Objects allow us to reveal certain aspects of Vodou, but videos, due to their additional and livelier dimension, will be able to showcase gestures, music, as well as magic words during the ceremonies.
This film is supported by the AFK (Amsterdam Fund for the Arts)