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Philibert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo

Philibert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo

In occasion of the focus that the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (online edition) dedicates to the Swiss-based filmmaker Philibert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo, Filmexplorer has virtually met and interviewed him online.

[…] What is specific to «I Got My Things and Left» is how the subjective layer expands into the collective one, where the dialogues build a sort of utopian society which is anchored on memory and united by friendship.

ONLINE STREAMING of I Got My Things and Left on arte.tv until the 6th of August 2020 

Going through Philibert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo’s short filmography it is quite interesting to discover the main threads of a cinematic style that seems to have found a mature expression with I Got My Things and Left (2018, winner at last year’s edition of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen). Reflection on media, or on the process of filmmaking, and subjectivity – in terms of subjective point of view or focus on the characters’ interiority – are certainly two of them.

Be it through radio, a sound or a camera recorder, the act of recording is often at the centre of Mbabazi’s stories, such as in The Liberators (2016) or Keza Lyn (2017). These stories coincide with Mbabazi’s own experience, which testifies to both the importance of memory and the ethical or political consciousness in creating a new record. For this, he does not hesitate to put himself into the image, often as a candid witness of sorts. In fact, self-representation or, more precisely, the expression of his own self, appears to work as a perspective that mediates both personal and political reflection. What it is like to be a black person in Europe, for example, is a theme that is never detached from a deeper existential interrogation, that clearly overcomes any racial or political boundary – like being a mother for the main character of Dayz (2015) or living instead of observing life for Keza Lyn. In this way, Mbabazi is able to challenge and modify the cliché representation of black people in cinema: more than simply determined by need or demanding recognition, his characters are not defined by their privation, but rather by their searching for something new, and not necessarily clear. His seekers champion an attitude that goes beyond emancipation, and into imagination.

This explorative attitude is perfectly expressed in two essayistic short films, Versus (2016) and Noir Plaisir (2016). Here Mbabazi seems to have found a congenial cinematic language, where dreamy images and an experiment-friendly use of sounds punctuate the film. Nonetheless, it would be unjust to limit his style to the essayistic one. As is apparent in his last I Got My Things and Left, the essayistic elements contribute to expressing a subjective perspective, which is still looking at dialogues. Mbabazi’s cinema is (also) a cinéma de parole, where discussion between people constitutes the backbone of social construction. In The Liberators, for example, there is an evident political commitment in making from dialogue the territory of complex negotiations and compromises. What is specific to I Got My Things and Left is how the subjective layer expands into the collective one, where the dialogues build a sort of utopian society which is anchored on memory and united by friendship. This concrete and communitarian utopia will work as a secular transcendence, replacing religion or any exaggerated cult of the past: a liberation from any identity question. Again, imagination and, of course, its cinematic expression are brought into play.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore | Audio/Video: Ruth Baettig

First published: May 13, 2020

Philibert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo | Focus | International Short Film Festival Oberhausen 2020

I Got My Things and Left | Short | Philibert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo | RWA-CH 2018 | 22’ | Grand Prize of the City Oberhausen at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen 2019

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On the "Profile" at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen 2020

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