A Word from Cesar


When I was young in Brazil, Madagascar was such a distant and inaccessible island that it became a mythical place. We used to say Shangri-La, Atlantis, Nirvana or Madagascar. In the eighties the name of this island, that nobody was sure really existed, appeared in the lyrics of a song by a Brazilian band, Oludum. The hit went: ‘Madagascar, Island of Love!’

Marie-Clemence and I shot the film Angano...angano Tales from Madagascar, at a time when the only images of Madagascar were from wildlife television programmes. We chose, then, to focus on one of the islands treasures. In Madagascar oral tradition is called Lovan’tsofina, which means ‘the ears’ inheritance’. Through this inheritance, we were able to approach the island’s imagination and to highlight the richness of the Malagasy soul.


Angano...Angano was a love letter to the Malagasy people, to their tenderness and humour. Now I feel closely related to Madagascar, and not only because my wife is Malagasy. Malagasy philosophy has even changed my life since making that film. Their relationship with death has changed the way I see life. My heart beats more strongly each time I hear news from the ‘island of love’. Sadly the news of late has not been good. Typhoons, plagues of crickets, cholera epidemics, soil erosion and political crises are some of the troubles the country has had to endure, as well as the changes in global economics and the terrible rule of the ‘market’.

Is there no way out? Will Madagascar be forever begging for international humanitarian aid? Will it ever overcome its ‘Third World’ status? Or, at best, become a tourists’ paradise?

With this film, we want to highlight local alternatives. To show people who are trying to find their own way out. We want to make a film in the image of the Malagasy people, full of emotion, sometimes sad, but always ready to smile and laugh.

Cesar Paes
author - director


A Word from Raymond

One day, Ranavalona I, the cruellest Malagasy Queen ever, asked her court painter to erase the birds he had painted on her palace walls because their singing disturbed her night’s sleep.

Today, this story makes us smile — we who believe that frescoes can only be silent. How could painted birds disturb someone’s sleep?

In 1972, Madagascar was ruled by President Tsiranana’s neo-colonial regime. A major popular uprising invaded the streets and, together with a few musicians, people began to sing their anger and despair.

At that time, songs had their own strength. They became weapons efficient enough to scare their enemies in power. Mahaleo was born then, singing in a battle that the people eventually won.

Today Madagascar has to decide its destiny. Its image in the media is made up of cute lemurs and paradise beaches, where tourists erase Malagasy footsteps in the sand. In 2002, Madagascar celebrated its thirty years of ‘independence’. Who are we now? What path do the Malagasy people follow today?

The shadowy doors that hover over this country must some day be opened. We need light to know who we are. In the light, where the birth of our image, partly linked to death, will give us the means to look to the future.


Raymond Rajaonarivelo
author - director

A Word from Marie-Clémence

About ten years ago, Raymond Rajaonarivelo’s first feature film, Tabataba, and our first documentary film, Angano...angano...Tales from Madagascar, were concurrently screened at festivals. It was, and still is, rare to see African films at the cinema. How rare, then is a Malagasy film? As our films belonged to the same endangered species, this created a very strong bond between us, and today ‘Mahaleo’ by Raymond Rajaonarivelo and Cesar Paes is one such rare specimen of cinema from the South.

The project’s strength and originality springs not only from the subject, but also from the unique filmmaking combination, which gives a dual insight into Madagascar through the Mahaleo group and their music. Raymond is a Malagasy filmmaker, screenwriter and director of feature films. He is of the same generation as the band and has the advantage of being close to them. Cesar, a Brazilian filmmaker also from the South, is a committed almost militant documentary filmmaker of the cinema du Réel. His view of Madagascar and the group’s commitment is more distant, more strategic. Their approaches are thus very different, and the criss-crossing of this double vision is what carries the film and gives us food for thought.

Mahaleo and their music is an entry point for depicting Madagascar today, at a critical time in its history, after a political crisis that brought the country to the brink of civil war. Beyond this, the group also provides an interesting insight into the status and commitment of the artist in a developing country.

Marie-Clémence Paes
author - producer

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