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on becoming a guinea

On becoming a guinea fowl

“On becoming a Guinea Fowl” directed by Rungano NYONI

Prix du Jury – Un Certain Regard

Un Certain Regard Selection

Starring Susan Chardy



On a deserted road in the middle of the night, Shula comes across the body of her uncle. As preparations for a funeral begin, Shula and her cousins shed light on the buried secrets of their Zambian middle-class family. In this surreal and vibrant film, filmmaker Rungano Nyoni delves into the lies we tell ourselves.


There were very few films shot on the African continent selected this year.

On becoming a Guinea Fowl is the first Zambian film selected at Cannes. It is produced and directed by two women, Eva Yates  and Rungano Nyoni.

Indeed, this film is a story about women; they are the ones we see on screen. The story revolves around Shula, a modern young woman who, in the dead of night, discovers the body of her uncle. As she felt nothing, she returns home, and soon the customary funeral rites are underway.

However, it is revealed that this man was a rapist and had committed incest with several young girls of her family, including Shula.

The women of the family don’t say a word. The director questions us about justice. What happens when the perpetrator of a crime has died?

As she is in charge of all funeral arrangements and footing the bill—her role as the eldest—Shula is the only one who dares to speak out against her uncle’s actions. She takes care of all the young women her age, cooks, buys food, and sets up tables.

Young Women and Widows

Men pass by as mere silhouettes; they have the power to decide but appear dependent and insignificant. When she demands answers about her uncle from her father, he replies, “Do you want me to dig up the corpse to ask him what happened?”

In addition to incest, the director speaks to us about widowhood. When a man dies, the blame falls on the woman who did not take care of her husband properly. And this turns into a trial, even if she was raped or beaten by this man. The husband’s family takes all his material possessions, and the woman, even if she has children, is left with nothing.

A very powerful film, therefore, about incest, silence, and traditions, imbued with mysticism (much of the action takes place at night) marked by the magnificent cinematography of David Gallego. A true gem.

The producer and director were both applauded for a long time after the screening.


On becoming a Guinea Fowl – Rungano NYONI (excerpt from the press kit)

“To what extent are the stories we tell altered by death, and what impact do they have on the living?

In my tribe, we believe that when a person dies, everything dies with them.

Funerals are for the living, not for the dead.

It is also taboo to speak ill of the dead. I think this is the case in most cultures. So, whatever grievances you have against the deceased, they disappear and are buried with him. The Bembas also believe that people are born good and that it is circumstances that transform them; that is why only the good sides of the person are honored after their death.

Furthermore, we believe a lot in spirits and ancestors, and no one wants to be haunted by the spirit of a loved one because they spoke ill of them at their funeral. So there are many benefits to keeping silent.”




About the Cannes Film Festival










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