The team of Maéva Ranaïvojaona and Georg Tiller weave
an unusual, haunting hybrid of documentary and fiction, lyric poetry and social
reflection in Zaho Zay.
One must be careful not to over-synopsise it: the narrative aspect is fleeting, periodic, allusive, not at
all in the driver’s seat. Better to say simply that the voice of a woman (text
by Maéva Raharimanana) conjures both a world she inhabits as the guard at a
crowded prison in Madagascar, and the wandering, perhaps mythic father she
scarcely knew – a murderer who decides his crimes by rolling dice.
Like in João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata’s superb The Last Time I
Saw Macao (2012), staged elements of fiction are allowed to enter the
documentary frame – but, equally, fragments of this reality come to interact
via montage with the (largely off-screen) story.
The poetic correspondences set up by this interaction
of realms are rich and never schematic: abandonment by a father who holds power
over life and death is intertwined with the politics of a place where “disaster
and ferocity” rule.
Especially poignant and piercing is the place of
“woman in the night of our country” – sealed in the ultimate glimpse of a
women’s prison beside the male enclave.
© Adrian Martin September 2020