His latest feature film, “Timbuktu,” cleaned up at the Cesar Awards last month (the French equivalent of the Oscars), winning 7 of the 8 categories in which it was nominated, including key categories like Best Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. For those in the USA, Cohen Media Group released the film theatrically earlier this year, starting in late January, and it will likely make its way to home video platforms shortly for the many of you who didn’t get to screen it during its theatrical run, since it was a very limited run.
While you wait, check out this 2008 short film Abderrahmane Sissako directed, titled “N’Dimagou – La Dignité,” which considers the complexity of what we know to be the definition of the word “dignity.” The film is part of an anthology titled “Stories on Human Rights,” which asked a select group of filmmakers from all over the world to produce short films on various themes (one of which was dignity) no longer than 3 minutes.
As Sissako said on the subject, “I think it’s very difficult to deal with such sweeping concepts as justice and dignity in the allotted two or three minutes, so I looked for an idea that actually asked the question ‘What is dignity’ rather than answering it […] Anyone can speak about it, no matter where they come from. I’m an artist and part of my identity includes being universal. As a film-maker I’ve always wanted to tell the story of people who have really difficult lives and deep down resent injustice, but still manage to keep going, to keep living, perhaps that’s dignity.”
In the film, women, men and children, all from modest backgrounds, are asked to answer the question, “What does dignity mean to you?” on camera.
Sissako considered this film a kind of monument to what he called “worthy anonymous people” in the world, because he finds them more interesting than the so-called “worthy people” whose names we all already know well.
“This is why I film people passing by, people I may never see again… but who leave their mark on me and on others, immortalized on film,” he ended.
And with that, watch the 3-minute short film, “N’Dimagou – La Dignité,” below. It’s simple, and effective: