Becoming Vera

Mieke Bal, Alexandra Loumpet-Galitzine and Michelle Williams Gamaker

2008, 53:12 minutes, colour


Between age three and four, Vera Loumpet-Galitzine traverses many landscapes, exploring where she comes from, to come into her own. We follow her to her school and neighbourhood activities in France, to Cameroon and to Russia. In Fumban, Cameroon, she is initiated as nji mongu, the oldest daughter of the nji (prince) of the traditional kingdom of Bamun. In Russia, in Moscow and surroundings, she visits the estates of her mother’s ancestors, who were nobility exiled during the revolution.

For Vera these visually engaging landscapes seem easily integrated into her rich fantasy world. She dances, sings, and runs around; she sits still for hours while the women and men of her father’s people dance around her. She looks at paintings and sculptures in the stately homes her mother shows her, onto which she projects her imagined stories.

We attempt to imagine what all these different places look like to Vera. What does she see, think, or imagine? While no one can have access to her mind, we follow her gaze with empathy. Meanwhile, her parents explain their own intercultural situation and the potential implications for Vera.

Instead of telling a chronological story, we hop around from moment to moment where Vera’s playing becomes learning as a means to becoming Vera.

As in all Cinema Suitcase works, the film lets the subject hold the story and her images tell it, and the family explain things, rather than having an authoritative outside voice-over do the telling.

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