Erica Pomerance and the challenges facing African women

20 May

Erica Pomerance: 'Mère et enfant'

Regular guest blogger Jocelyne Clarke wrote this about a very committed Montreal filmmaker.

At the recent edition of Vues d’Afrique, I attended Erica Pomerance’s just completed film, ‘Opération Survie’, about a medical condition that affects approximately two million women worldwide : obstetrical fistula.

Generally associated with primitive birthing conditions, delivery complications and inadequate health care, the condition leaves women incontinent, and as a result, socially excluded. In Africa, excision and genital mutilations, still practiced on young girls in many regions, are also a factor.

The film was made with the collaboration of Dr. Danielle Perreault, a Quebec emergency doctor, television commentator and photographer with a special interest in women’s health, who travels worldwide to educate and train. The film partially takes place in a center where women live while awaiting the simple surgery that will often enable them to re-integrate normal society. Sadly, many women are so damaged by repeated childbirths that they will never recover normal bodily functions.

Dr. Danielle Perreault (gauche) avec Erica Pomerance

Dr. Danielle Perreault and Erica Pomerance at the film’s launch.

Erica has a long term interest in Africa. In 1997, she directed ‘Tabala – Rhythms in the Wind’, about African music and dance culture in Montreal. Simultaneously, she had developed an interest in the realities of African women and begun research on female circumcision, and particularly on the work being done by women’s organizations in Africa. Following ten years of research and on the ground work, ultimately collaborating with Monique Simard and Virage Productions, she released ‘Dabla! Excision’ (2003).

Since then, Erica has directed four films in West Africa, including ‘Opération Survie’: Miroir en face‘ (2006, Via le Monde); ‘Caravane’ (2008), self-produced with the Taling Dialo initiative, a video training association she founded, and ‘Ndomo, les cinq doigts de la main’, about girls’ initiation in Mali, co-directed with Isabelle Garceau.

In the extremely and increasingly difficult context of documentary production, even more so given the « distant » nature of the realities she explores, Erica’s passion and determination are an inspiration. I often see her just as she is about to board a place to West Africa, small camera in hand and hopeful that the funding will eventually be found for some new project.

Her films and the personal commitment she brings to them offer precious glimpses into « other » worlds, both sobering and inspiring.

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