The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman

Just beautiful. The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman is a love letter to the women in her family, a celebration of their strength which sheltered and nurtured her, a thanksgiving for all she owes to their sacrifices and their character.

The filmmaker returns home to Cameroon after 7 years, now a new mother with a European husband. You feel the ache of homesickness throughout the film. There is a need to fit back into a place which is sculpted for you, where the shape of you is missing and there is a peace in returning. She has been away so long, and she has underwent these huge life changes, she broke from tradition and forewent an arranged marriage, wedded a foreigner, and gave birth to her first child. You get a sense of the vulnerability she must have felt, after growing up in the bosom of this circle of support, the many voices of encouragement and practical wisdom, to be left to look after a child alone, be responsible for this most precious life, and have no one to help or turn to.

You can feel a palpable exultation at her return and a sense of relief. And in this emotion, she interviews her mother, her aunts, and films her family and community. Her mother and her sisters are such strong people. They talk about their lives, which have not been easy. There has been illness and loss. There has been poverty and hardship. There has been work and toil. There has been the callousness and selfishness of men. And they remember still, war.

Throughout this though is the constant language of togetherness. They got through these hard times by supporting one another, by setting an example for one another, by teaching one another, by standing steadfast by one another, “to make a chain so that none of the women fall”.

Coming from a family of strong women, I so identified with the sense of gratitude she felt. Not only for the practical sacrifices, but for the sense of dignity, self-reliance, and belief in oneself. The filmmaker is a dreamer, she talks being transported through books, then cinema, then literally taken abroad by her studies. Despite the airiness of her ambitions, her mother supported her through all of it, paying for her school fees working a market stall.

The Two Faces of A Bamileke Woman is about what is shown and what is buried in the countenance of her mother and her sisters, the strength that shows but also the sorrows it hides. It is also about the filmmaker, who has both this wandering spirit, keen always to see what is elsewhere, and yet also desperately and lovingly grounded in the heart of her family in Cameroon.