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Carlos Chang Cheng, Daniele Piras
2013, 50m, documentary
Barsaq for the Muslims is the Zombieland where sinners and saints go after they die, while Barça is the name of the best football team in the world. "Barça or Barsaq" is the phrase used by Africans before they sail off with cayucos to a better future, meaning life or death. And Barsaq is the name of our documentary.
10 questions with Barsaq director, Carlos Chang Cheng, Daniele Piras at the half-way mark.
Sunday, March 13th, 2016
1Hi Carlos! Thanks for being a part of our winter festival. What was the initial seed that made you want to make Barsaq? I was tired of seeing how the media and some NGO's portrayed people as "poor little Africans". In the first place it wasn't my aim to blossom easy tears in the eyes of well-made spectators, with a cute vision towards illegal Africans. My aim was to focus on how Mamadou Diagne, Khalifa, Aliou and Soly laugh of life and above all: how they laugh about the vision we have of them. As well as Mamadou, my family was as well illegal aliens, as well as Mamadou; I’m a migrant, like my grandparents, who traveled from China to Peru not knowing what will happen to them. As well as Mamadou, my passion is to tell stories told by others. That is why I told his history because through his life I was telling mine.
2How did you find subjects of your doc? Mamadou Diagne had a dream: do a play with illegal Africans to show their vision of how they live in Barcelona. One day he told me if I was interested in shooting the rehearsals.
It was really hard to find people that were interested in being part of this project, many were suspicious and scared, others just wanted money. But one day, Aliou Kande appeared to do a casting. He was a rap singer as well and he put most of his original songs in this doc. And Soly Malamine joined as well... He is the best friend of Aliou and was really eager to participate so the story began to take shape...
3What was the biggest challenge shooting Barsaq? Shooting with no money at all. No equipment. No crew. Only following Mamadou's dream. Now it sounds romantic but is completely stupid. A close friend of mine called Steven borrowed a camera from his film school, other Brazilian friend, Akira, helped us with the sound. My girlfriend made us the catering. Our characters were all illegal and really had a hard time being chased by cops, living in a squatter house, being evicted and working all day on the streets... It was very difficult to plan a schedule. All production plans were completely changed overnight because the characters disappeared and others were just scared of being filmed because they used to lie to their families in Africa that they were successful in Europe. And Mamadou, our main character, suddenly one day he decided to quit
his dream.. quit the project and he left Europe and went back to Senegal.
4Carlos, you also co-directed the film with Daniele Piras. How did you two divide up the work? Daniele Piras is like my brother to me. We share a similar cinematic vision but we had big discussions in terms of editing and style. He took more care of the editing and I was in charge of producing. But I think that there must be one ultimate vision in a movie. So we decided that Barsaq was our last co-directed project. The next documentary we're releasing this year is called Taxi Dakar I'm the director and he is the producer and the next project, he will be the director and I will produce his idea. Doing a documentary is like being in a battle, always have someone you rely 100% watching your back and vice versa, and in my case, that's Daniele.
5Documentaries are insane to me. I can't imagine making one. What was the first moment you captured when you knew you'd have a good movie? You're completely right. They're insane! Chaotic, disorganized, in a documentary usually shit happens... like life. I don't even know if it's a good movie! hahaha. I just wanted to finish editing the story and that's it. But shooting inside the Camp Nou Stadium (Barcelona Football Club stadium) with Aliou was a good moment.
6What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I have two films: Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog and Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino.
7In your synopsis you say, "Barsaq for the Muslims is the Zombieland where sinners and saints go after they die". Could you explain a bit more why you chose to title your film around this concept? In Senegal (and other parts of Western Africa) when they sail off to Europe in cayucos they say: Barça or Barsaq, meaning Barcelona (Europe and also the football club that has the same name: Barça) or Death. For many Muslims, Barsaq is the place where you go when you die, like the Purgatory... So is sad and ironic because many people risk their lives choosing between Illusion or Death but when they arrive in Europe, that so-called Illusion turns into a living nightmare, a living Zombieland. Barça turns into Barsaq.
8What's the biggest thing you learned from making this film? Friendship... We made this film thanks to Aliou Kande, Soly Malamine and Mamadou Diagne...
9What do you think about the current state of indie film and indie distribution? I truly believe that the future of indie films is Internet. Besides filmmaking and editing, I work as a web dev in an agency based in Barcelona and I know at first hand that is easier and cheaper to distribute and share your craft in a faster way as never before. I love going to the movie theatre but I'm fully aware that Internet is an open window for us. All my movies were funded by crowfunding and I use to distribute my films with online platforms.
10What's next? This year I'm releasing a documentary called Taxi Dakar. Taxi Dakar is a road movie, a tale told backwards like the Paris-Dakar race without the prize. It's about a broken friendship between 2 migrants in Europe returning to Africa by road, through the vast plains of Spain, crossing the Mediterranean Ocean, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania all the way down to Senegal, meeting Africans waiting for their chance to cross the European walls. But the van crashes on a lonely road in Mauritania and odd things start to happen...
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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