Amy (Dorylia Calmel) was born in France, but her real name is Aminata. With a white French father and a mother from Burkina Faso, she has always felt in-between, especially since she grew up without her mother. So when she lands in Burkina searching for a connection with her African family, she looks, sounds and feels adrift.
Director Sarah Bouyain is herself a product of a Burkinabé-French mix. Her novel Métisse façon traced the overlapping identities of biracial African Europeans. The Place In Between expands that exploration and gives it the rhythms and immediacy only cinema can offer.
Amy’s return to her mother’s town is tentative. As she walks through the streets in her western dress, the local men call out, “Hey, white lady!” When she visits the home of her aunt Acita (Blandine Yameogo) to try and find out where her mother disappeared to, the welcome is no less distant. Her mother had a secret that shamed the family; Acita is not about to discuss these matters with a foreign girl who might as well be a stranger. But Amy perseveres.
The Place In Between contrasts Amy’s journey with a story back in France. Esther (Nathalie Richard) takes lessons in the Dioula language from a Burkinabé woman who also works as a cleaner. At first it’s not clear why Esther – white, middle-aged and middle class – wants to learn an African language. But as the film juxtaposes these two stories of women bridging the gap between Europe and Africa, the connections become clear and ultimately heartbreaking.
The Place in Between is a reminder that the most touching films are sometimes told simply. Bouyain’s camera is intimate as it observes the women and poised as it establishes two distinct worlds: one of red dirt courtyards and bright patterned dresses and the other of white-walled offices and quiet gardens. In each world, though, women struggle to balance duties with desires. The stories of Amy and Esther may be separated by distance and culture, but they turn out to have much in common. —TIFF
Sarah Bouyain, mixed-race of French-Burkinabé parentage was born in Reims, Marne. After acquiring a university degree in mathematics she entered the l’école Nationale supérieure Louis Lumière (“École de Vaugirard”). Two years later, she worked as assistant camerawoman on different films as well as advertisements and also worked as image intern for the film Léon by Luc Besson.
Her documentary Les Enfants du Blanc was released in 2000 and the book of short stories Metisse façon, published in 2003. She has also written articles mainly focusing on the theme of mixed-race and exile for Africultures, Presence Africaine and Codesria. —African Women In Cinema