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“Producers ran away with money”

Its producers disappeared with money collected from joint financial partners as part of the production of their film “The Walls of Knowledge”. Despite this painful adventure, Sheikh Ahmed Tidiane Si managed to complete his beautiful production. This one relates to the living conditions of students at Sheikh Anta Deep University in Dakar. Senegalese director, chief camera operator and independent video-journalist working for over fifteen years.

In this interview, he comes back to this misadventure with the producer, he focuses on shooting for the film and his career.


Sheikh Ahmed Tidiane Si, you are the director of the film ‘The Walls of Knowledge’. We heard you had some trouble with a manufacturer. What happened ?

He just left with the money! I would say this is by far the biggest problem I have faced. Originally, it was to be a France-Senegal co-production. I was more focused on receipts with oversight authority over spending and financing that were meant to help me solidify the project. When I began to notice discrepancies in what the producer who lived in Senegal was telling me, I wanted answers. But the manufacturer has cut all contact. Worst of all, he went to give the first draft to a partner. He submitted this draft as the final film. And, this partner put this draft on their content distribution platform. Now, my legal advisor handles this aspect because the most important thing for me was making and finishing the film. But, since I became the sole producer, I had to pay for everything out of my own pocket, sometimes with the help of friends. To get there, I had to look for money. That’s how Fopica subsidized me and it was because of these funds that the film was able to see the light of day. For this reason I would like to thank the Ministry of Culture, the direction of the cinematography and Fopica.

“The Walls of Knowledge” talks about the difficult situations faced by the students of Ukad. What inspired you to make this film?

I was first a student at UCAD (Sheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar), then with my work as a video journalist, I was able to visit many countries in Africa, and especially educational and social campuses. Thus the idea of ​​making this film was born. I wanted to tell the story of different student profiles, to see how they adapted and lived in this “city”.

We see different profiles there. How did you choose your characters?

I did blind casting. For about three years, I went to a pavilion and I randomly chose a room I sympathized with the occupants while sipping tea. The students gave me a chance to talk about my film project and I was ready for all the questions. Some profiles like this caught my attention. These are the four main characters of the film.

How did you manage to penetrate the students’ intimacy?

It is a relationship of trust. Naturally, special ties were woven. This is also one of the main reasons why I did not film some scenes, such as when stones were thrown during the visit of the President of the Republic.

Was it easy to get clearance from the authorities for the film?

Getting permission was honestly not very difficult. It was still necessary to clearly articulate the vision and objectives. The fact that the producer with whom I started the project taught at Gaston Berger University in St. Louis worked in my favor. I really thank the university authorities, the cultural service and especially the protection of the COUD with which the fraternal ties have been woven.

You have photographed the scuffle between the strikers and the police. Is it by chance or have you planned everything so as not to miss a possible event?

Filming did not happen all at once, so the main camera operator had two assistants who had to film certain scenes if they had any obstacles. We also asked friends who took some pictures with their cell phones to integrate it all into the description.

You followed your characters after the making of the film. What have they become today?

The fate of the four characters has been different. One of the girls is now a PE teacher and is married. The second is in Master 2 in Economics. The young student rapper eventually dropped out of college and lives off odd jobs. For his part, the student photographer has become a professional photographer and he occasionally works with me on some projects, but the most interesting thing is that he will certainly defend his thesis in English before the end of 2022 If all goes well At the end of filming we came very close: this is a real family.

What brought you to the cinema?

I have come to cinema out of pure passion. This passion was born when in my tender youth, I spent most of my time watching movies. I alternated between the classical “French” school and Dara, so with our Talib friends, we liked to tell each other about the movies we’d seen the day before at some of the neighborhood concessions. . In the same way, till today the desire to tell stories through films has settled in my mind.

Tell us about your filmography?

The first film I made was a short documentary. It was my graduation film at the media center in Dakar. In 2005 it was titled “Silence, We Arrival”. It deals with the fate of Mauritanian refugees in the Senegal River valley. Released in 2008, the second is about the manatees of the Newell backwaters in Matam. Next, I directed “MBus, The Gold Rush” in 2011, about people who live out of a dysfunctional economy in an MBus landfill. In 2020, I shot the feature documentary “The Wall of Knowledge” in 4 years with four cross portraits of students from Sheikh Anta DIOP University in Dakar.

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