May 4, 2006
The Woman Alone, 2004
During the Q&A for The Woman Alone, Brahim Fritah explained that his original shooting strategy of concealing the subject, Akosse Legba's face by filming only fragments of her body along with the empty rooms of her (former) employer/owner's luxury apartment and images from her impoverished village in Togo, was designed after Legba had requested anonymity for her (perceived) shame and humiliation from her ordeal (a strategy similarly implemented by Tsai Ming-liang in the documentary, My New Friends). The strategy turns out not only to be artful, but also a particularly inspired one, as Legba's horrific first-hand testimony of subhuman treatment is reflected in the fractured shots, disembodied voice, and impressionistic photographs that acutely - and poignantly - articulate her captivity and systematic dehumanization at the hands of seemingly well-intentioned benefactors. A victim of modern slavery in France, Legba was brought into the country on a false passport by a French Togolese couple offering a chance for a better life abroad, only to be forced into a life of unpaid servitude. Denied any kind of autonomy even within the household, Legba was repeatedly abused by the couple until a near fatal beating finally compels neighbors to summon the police for help and inevitably sets her on the path to freedom. Concluding with the close-up shot of a photographic section that gradually pulls back to reveal the entire photograph of Legba, with her integrated movement finally captured through the continuity of her image on recorded video, the sequence becomes an indelible, metaphoric reconstitution of Legba's fractured and lost identity - a restoration of wholeness - in the face of dehumanization, exploitation, and inhumanity.