Mickael Bandela is a filmmaker based in Paris. He studied at La Femis in the program “L’Atelier Documentaire” before founding his own production company “Ruska films”. He has also worked as an editor for commercial and music videos since 2009. His debut feature documentary One Mother explores the complex relationship between himself, his foster mother, and his birth mother.
“For nearly twenty years, I grew up in a foster family. Today I am 35 years old and I am trying to start my own family when Gisèle, my birth mother, tells me that she is returning to live in Congo, her home country. I have to understand: Why is she still leaving? Through archive images, I trace the thread of my childhood, methodically, to better question the present. Who is this woman who gave birth to me?”
One Mother screened at the Austin Lift-Off Film Festival. We interviewed Director Mickael Bandela to hear more about the history behind the documentary, his cinematic inspirations, and his ambition to break into fiction filmmaking for his next project.
One Mother has been short-listed for Best Feature Documentary for the 2023 Lift-Off Season Awards.
Interview by Ollie Baines
What is your film about? And why did you want to make it?
“One Mother is a film that questions our relationship with the mother figure on three different levels, primarily foster care. For 20 years I grew up in foster care, and with this film I’m trying to understand who these two women who shared me are: my foster mother, whom I call “mom”, and my biological mother. What does being a mother mean to them?
“By extension, the film questions the notion of family. What does it mean to be a family? The film questions the difference in conception between the mono-nuclear Western family and the extended family as practiced in Congo-Brazzaville, against the historical backdrop of colonisation and decolonisation. The film tells the story of a 16-year-old African girl who arrives in France in the wake of the decolonisation of African countries like the Congo. A 16-year-old Congolese girl left to her own devices on her arrival in France, who becomes a mother too soon? Finally, the film questions the disorientation that can result from the absence of a mother figure… or should I say a guardian figure… I don’t know.
“This film is the counterpoint to a first film I made with my sister Jessica, who grew up in the same foster family as me. This first film, which has never been released, inspired me to make One Mother, a sort of counterpoint to the first one, in which I use my own story to tell the story of my perception of childhood, as a black child from a black family.”
Who are your 3 biggest filmmaking inspirations and why?
“Ingmar Bergman. Cassavetes. Park chan ho. Wang bing.
“These four filmmakers plumb the depths of the human soul in its struggle between impulse and reason, interviewing personalities who, one day, give in to the easy way out and see their lives plunged into hell. Each of these filmmakers risks something with every project they undertake. Each of them has something to lose, and they don’t tell a story from afar. They are part of it, and it’s this courage, combined with their love of cinema and its language, that makes them first-rate filmmakers.”
What is next for you as a filmmaker?
“I’m working on my first narrative feature film. Perfidia tells the story of a mixed Parisian couple’s descent into hell when they thought they were above questions of racism and privilege.”
Don’t forget to view the complete Winners and Special Mentions and Shortlisted Season Awards Filmmakers list from Austin Lift-Off Film Festival.