Zabou, Model of the Dunes

Abdoulaye Ascofaré | Gao, Mali | 2003 | 90 mins

Zabou Synopsis

This creative documentary narrates the story of one of the first African queens of cabaret dancing, Zeynaba Arouhenna Maiga aka Zabou — a former member of the famed Paris cabaret, the Crazy Horse Saloon. Her stage name, “Miss Zabou” hit the headlines in France in the early 1970s.

Through the rise and fall of a star, the script examines the journey of a young woman on her brilliant and dizzying ascent, followed by her brutal crash, her moral collapse, and the ensuing social challenges for being misunderstood. The film depicts a Zabou’s transformation from full-frontal nudity to the dressed fashion show, as well as modern dance forms in Gao, the Bamako phase, the West Indian nights of Dakar, the epic of the Crazy Horse Saloon and European capitals, and finally the dark period preceding repatriation.

The film uses the iconographic principle of documentary reporting interspersed with fictionalized passages in a few places. It is made of two episodes evolving along parallel dramatic lines, also known as “Siamese” or imprecated.

About the Filmmakers

Abdoulaye Ascofaré (born April 20, 1949, in Gao) is a Malian poet and filmmaker. Ascofaré was a radio host until 1978, when he became a teacher at the Institut National des Arts in Bamako. In 1984, he received a diploma in film studies from the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (now the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography) in Moscow and, in 1985, he joined the Centre National de Production Cinématographique in Bamako as a director.

Beginning in 1991, he produced several short films and, in 1997, he produced his first full-length film, Faraw, une mère des sables (Faraw, a mother of the sands), which retraces twenty-four hours in the life of a Songhaï woman. Faraw, won the Golden Bayard for Artistic Creation at the 1997 Namur Film festival. As a poet, he has published Domestiquer le rêve (Domesticating the Dream).

More from the Filmmaker

This film invites you to imagine a little black girl who leaves her native village — the smallest sort of village in the world — and who goes out to make a spectacle of her body every evening, in front of hundreds of people in Paris.

View more films in the Women’s Voices Now Online Film Collection.

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