CHEZ JOLIE COIFFURE a film by ROSINE MBAKAM. 2018. Belgium. 70 min. A Cameroonian filmmaker is invited into an expat-owned hair salon in the African Quarter of Brussels.


In anticipation of the premiere of Rosine Mbakam’s Mambar Pierrette – a docufiction about a seamstress in Douala playing at the 76th Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight, we’re thrilled to spotlight her sophomore feature Chez Jolie Coiffure. Through her own mode of cinéma vérité, Mbakam has positioned herself as an observer of migrant women’s personal struggles amid geopolitical headache.


In Brussels’ African Quarter, Matonge, Mbakam is invited into the hair salon Jolie Coiffure by manager Sabine, a Cameroonian woman who fled Lebanon sans passport, now servicing a similar community. There is levity in these walls, with Sabine’s charm purling through her clientele, but the severity of the migrants’ situations is made clear through Mbakam’s skillful visual framing. The camera finds these women inside of mirrors, refracting off of each other and themselves. Mbakam’s cinematic language is patient and restrained, focused intently on procedure, transience, and migration, both in the physical and the affective sense. We watch Sabine’s fingers moving impossibly fast as she braids, and we’ll catch them again through a mirror or two, harmonizing her labor and the resolve behind it.




“By making films I want to give people the choice to be more than what I want them to be, more than my intention, more than what I imagine of them, to be more than that.” ROSINE MBAKAM


Despite the fact that the filmmaker makes her presence little known in the salon, her observance is not passive. Through Sabine’s onscreen confessions and Mbakam’s interior analogue, the film functions as a statement of displacement, of the small economies one builds to temper fiscal and emotional ties to their homelands. Mbakam has explored these themes prior in her documentary work, but seldom with the backdrop of police shopping the halls for undocumented migrants.


Born and raised in Cameroon, Mbakam began studying film with the Italian non-governmental organization COE (Centro orientamento Educativo) in Yaoundé, and eventually enrolled at the Institut Supérieur des Arts (INSAS) in Brussels to pursue film directing. Her debut feature The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman—a reflexive household documentary about Cameroonian politics and her mother’s arranged marriage—was an official selection in some 60 international film festivals in 2017, and was characterized by The New Yorker as an “intellectual awakening.” Mbakam’s latest film, Mambar Pierrette, is set to premiere in Cannes this month.


Text written by Saffron Maeve.

Credits for
Sabine, Nadine, Pascaline, Nina, Josiane & Johnny
produced by
Geoffrey Cernaix & Rosine Mbakam
co-produced by
Olivier Burlet, Pierre Duculot, Katy Lena Ndiaye
Rosine Mbakam
Rosine Mbakam & Loïc Villiot
Geoffroy Cernaix