Mambar Pierrette (2023), Cameroon
By: Dr. Claus Mueller
Premiering this year at New York Film Festival in the Currents section, which focuses on innovative voices, MAMBAR PIERRETTE directed by Rosine Mbakam presents a subdued but compelling portrait of the seamstress Mambar following her everyday life and survival strategies as a hardworking woman living in a downscale section of Cameroon’s capital Douala.
While confronted with repeated apparent calamities Mambar retains an upbeat spirit conveying that problems she encounters can be solved. Personal independence is essential even though for women in her country it may be contrary to the traditions of local elders. Unmarried, she takes care of her three children while living in a confined space but making just enough money from selling and repairing women’s clothes that she designs.
Among her challenges are a flooded home, damaged work supplies, being robbed of her savings, and losing power for sewing machines because she cannot pay for electricity. Despite this, Mambar is strong enough to help those in need, provide advice to her friends, and support her children. She is surrounded by women and there are few men in the film. From Mambar’s perspective, men are frequently unable to make a living, including the unemployed father of her children and a formerly well paid dancer but now working as an impoverished clown because the “arts and television in Cameroon are corrupt”. Self-reliance is Mambar’s mantra. She believes that women need to be enterprising because, as she declares with feminist overtones, “You need to be a fighter, a man in my life is just an extra”.