November 10 2011
Swedish/Burkina Fasoian director Theresa Traore Dahlberg came out guns blazing earlier this year with Taxi Sister, a documentary that intimately portrays Senegalese taxi driver Boury and the fourteen fellow women taxi drivers in Dakar that have taken up cab driving as part of a government sponsored program. Taxi Sister stays way clear of both dystopian images of famine, AIDS and war and cliché images of happy African savages, but at the same time, besides the very intimate portrayal of Boury and her day to day life adresses more generally the very specific plight of women working and living at odds with their expected traditional roles – in Senegal, one in a thousand taxi drivers is a woman. Having said that any cab driver in the world will probably find a more honest picture of what the job is like anywhere in the world, including Scorcese’s Taxi Driver and Jarmusch’s Night on Earth.
Theresa made Taxi Sister as her final exam from DI (the Dramatic Institute of Sweden), where she entered a course in TV-production a few years ago. Previous to that, she’s studied 16mm film at The New School in New York (while simultaneously holding down a slew of jobs in and out of film production), and she applied to DI with her shorts Procastistation and Looking for a Room made at The New School.
Stocktown loves forward looking films and future film making, and Taxi Sister is just that. Conceived through discussions on Skype between Sweden, Burkina Faso and Senegal, shot by minimal crew Theresa and her camera man Senay Berhe ; planned during a year and shot in Dakar, it points at the limitless possibilities of border- and genre defying film, collaborative efforts spanning north and south. In fact that, rather than TV production, is what’s on Theresa’s mind. She’s hell bent on organizing a alternative film festival championing feminist perspectives and giving a platform to those who have yet to enter the thus far small world of African cinema. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso would be the base, but the whole country (and hopefully enthusiasts from other parts of West Africa) would be involved, with local screenings taking film to the people, not the festival elite to the VIP event à la Cannes.
When asked about her influences, Theresa mentions everything from unorthodox documentaries such as Chalfant and Silver’s Style Wars, as well as feature films like Cassavete’s A Woman under the Influence and Fassbinders’ Fear Eats the Soul and contemporary Swedish documentaries such as Mia Engberg’s The Stars We Are, Ester Martin’s Maggie Vaknar På Balkongen and schoolmates Ahang Bashi’s Paradise and Binyam Ben Berhane’s Kiipa Papa (soon on Stocktown!)
More than anything, Taxi Sister, much like many films Theresa’s been inspired by, allows us to throw away prejudice and stand in someone else’s shoes, face their choices and share their relationships. Thanks for sharing worlds with us!