Rich in culture, heritage and beauty, The Wedding Ring is a wonderful offering from Niger Director Rahmatou Keïta. After developing the project for years, with funding from other African countries , Keïta was able to tell her story about Tiyaa, returning home from college in France where she fell in love with a wealthy young man. She dreams of returning to him and starting a life together. Except Tiyaa’s culture is one where she isn’t meant to be having such lustful thoughts. While waiting and dreaming for her suitor to come and be her knight in shining armor, Tiyaa has the opportunity to tell other women about her relationship, explore the male-female dynamics in her village, and learn about other relationships in her town.
I caught up with Keita for a brief chat.
What inspired your story for The Wedding Ring?
I wanted to tell an intimate story about life. I also didn’t want to tell a cliched story like you would get in Western films. I come from a place where people are typically shy. We live in harmony and create a story about that harmony and that communication between communities and this allowed me to do that.
I also wanted to show culture in this film which this film is rich in. I want to tell stories about women in love. I wanted to pay tribute to the beauty and show the richness of Africa in the film.
Was the film easy to get funded?
There isn’t a film industry in my country so I had to go and look for it. In my country, we see Western stories, stories where people live in Malibu and people live in a paradise. That’s what gets sold to us. That’s the film industry and people here dream of going to Western countries because of what’s sold to us. So, it was actually difficult to get the film funded.
What happened later was that, in 2009, I learned that through FESPACO, Algeria was looking to finance feature films so I got my script and sent it to Algiers. The jury there really loved the script and I got the funding for the film from Congo, Brazzaville, Rwanda, Morocco, Uganda, Algeria and Niger Republic.
You pay great tribute to architecture and costume in the film.
My cast is from Niger and through the right casting, I could pay tribute to that beauty through them. For the location, I wanted to shoot in an ancient town built in the 11th Century but we couldn’t get access to that town and I had to find another location.
The costumes you see are some of our own. My grandmother’s outfit that you see, the calabash is from my grandmother so we used a lot of my family’s outfit to shoot some of the scenes.
I come from a culture where beauty is important and everyone wants to be beautiful so I tried to reflect that here. The same with tradition. The tea ceremony that you see is a huge part of our tradition. Men make the tea, and boys serve it. That’s real. That’s from our culture.
I think that the philosophy of cultures are unique and precious and culture saves our world and we have to protect it. So that’s what I hoped to do with this film.