“The secretary of the Invisible”
NoguerasBlanchard is delighted to present Marine Hugonnier’s last film The Secretary of the Invisible. Shot on the river Niger in Mali, the work is an homage to Jean Rouch, the French anthropologist and filmmaker whose 1955 film, Les Maîtres Fous heralded the arrival of a “direct cinema” which set out to collapse the distance that separates the apprehending gaze (the camera) from its subject (the Other). Following Rouch, The Secretary of the Invisible was filmed in the historic homeland of the Songhay people. Re-enacting the participatory collaboration between actor and director pioneered by Rouch, the film documents the shared journey of Hugonnier and her chosen companions Damouré Zika and Moussa Hamidou – Jean Rouch’s principle actor and sound engineer, respectively – as they set out to make a film together.
Set during “Cinema day” the annual film festival in Niger’s capital Niemey, the narrative also features a “Holley” ceremony – an animist Songhay ritual. The story recounts Hugonnier’s exchange of her radio for another “transmittor of invisibility”, a South-West African transformation mask, which enables the inhabitation of animal spirits. The mask, which originates from another tribe, becomes an intruder in the Niamey’s ceremony, mirroring the presence of the camera, and behind it, the artist. Like the radio, and the mask, the author of the film is a conduit, or “secretary”, through which the events are transmitted. The theme of mimesis, metonymically represented here by the chameleon, runs throughout the film. The reptile’s change of colour, its camouflage and subsequent invisibility are placed in parallel with the ability of the director to become an “invisible eye” and to remain in the service of this condition.