Prisms and Portraits: The Films of Rosine Mbakam

Directed by Rosine Mbakam

349 minutes / Color
Cameroon Pidgin; French / English subtitles
Release: 2022
Copyright: 2022

film poster

PRISMS AND PORTRAITS: THE FILMS OF ROSINE MBAKAM is a collectable DVD set that contains four of her critically acclaimed, award-winning features as well as two previously unavailable shorts films. Rosine Mbakam’s powerful and empathetic documentary films focus on the migrant experiences of women and the legacies of colonialism. Cameroonian-born and Belgium-based, she constructs films with a patient rigor devoted to giving the women she features space to tell their own stories.

Disc 1: The Two Faces of Bamiléké Woman

Rosine Mbakam left Cameroon at 27 to live in Belgium. Seven years later—having studied film and married a European—she returns, accompanied by her son. Motivated by a desire to better understand her past and the place she grew up, Rosine is nonetheless surprised by the revelations her mother and other women make in startlingly intimate conversations.

THE TWO FACES OF A BAMILEKE WOMAN is a sharply observed, nuanced and powerful feature documentary debut that captures the relationship between a woman and her mother—and subtly expresses the dislocation of emigration.

Also includes two short films, You Will Be My Ally and Doors of the Past.

“Mbakam demonstrates a mastery of perspective.” —The New York Times

Disc 2: Chez Jolie Coiffure

Sabine’s hands move quickly and precisely as she tightly braids hair in her tiny salon. The sign outside offers African, European, or American hairstyles. More than a place for women to get their hair done, Jolie Coiffure serves as a community hub for West African women—many from Cameroon, like Sabine. Fueled by endless cans of soda and cups of McDonald’s coffee, she recruits for a tontine—an investment scheme paying each member a yearly annuity, organizes accommodation for a pregnant woman who lacks immigration papers, and, in quieter, more introspective moments, tells her own harrowing journey to Belgium after working as a domestic under terrible conditions in Lebanon.

CHEZ JOLIE COIFFURE is a highly revealing documentary, capturing the day-to-day lives and concerns of immigrant West African women in a space they can call their own.

"A must-see!” —IndieWire

Disc 3: Delphine's Prayers

Delphine, who is only identified by her first name, is quick-witted, engaging, passionate, and intense. Born and raised in Cameroon, at 30, she has survived a series of personal catastrophes. Her mother died in childbirth, and her father did little to care for his children. She was raped at 13, became a mother soon after, and supported herself with sex work on the streets of Douala. Now, she lives with a Belgian husband three times her age and their children, estranged from much of her family. In DELPHINE’S PRAYERS, she frankly shares her experiences with director Rosine Mbakam over several interview sessions.

Like Mbakam’s previous documentary, the acclaimed CHEZ JOLIE COIFFURE, DELPHINE’S PRAYERS is shot in a single room. Her films offer an intimate glimpse into the lives of women whose stories are rarely seen on camera.

"A bold confessional... honest and unflinching.” —Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

Disc 4: Prism

Is the technology of photography and motion pictures inherently racist?

For PRISM, Belgian filmmaker An van. Dienderen invited Rosine Mbakam, from Cameroon, and Eléonore Yameogo from Burkina Faso, to work together on a film in which the differences in their skin color, and experiences as filmmakers, serve as points-of-departure to explore this provocative question. Invented and standardized with white skin in mind, “the aesthetics and emulsions weren’t created for us,” the film director and actor Sylvestre Amoussou says in PRISM. And that underlying issue remains, even with digital technology: such white-centricity has meant that photographic media assume and privilege whiteness. To tackle the issue of racism in Western filmmaking, PRISM takes what some see as simple technical problems, and while creating powerful counter-images and methods of working, explores their insidious personal, cultural, and historical ramifications.

“Densely thoughtful... Beautiful and poignant.” —The New York Times

“Meet the filmmaker reinventing how African women are portrayed in movies. [In The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman, director Rosine Mbakam] engages the women in her family and her community in conversations about their rituals and experiences.” —Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, National Public Radio (NPR)

"An original filmmaker of exquisite sensibility; one of the foremost filmmakers of creative nonfiction working right now." The New Yorker

Ways to Watch


Home use DVD for $49.98

Colleges, Universities, Government Agencies, Hospitals, and Corporations

Purchase DVD for $498.00


Four-Disc Box Set with Booklet


Step inside a tiny underground hair salon and meet its charismatic owner, a Cameroonian immigrant named Sabine.

Rosine Mbakam | 2019 | 70 minutes | Color | Cameroon Pidgin; French | English subtitles

A portait of Delphine, a Cameroonian woman who turned to prostitution to support her family.

Rosine Mbakam | 2021 | 91 minutes | Color | Cameroon Pidgin; French; English | English subtitles

Juxtaposes the testimonies of three Rwandan genocide survivors—Rosette, Charlotte, and Christine—with images of well-dressed white Belgian women.

Rosine Mbakam | 2021 | 14 minutes | Color | French | English subtitles

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Rosine Mbakam's narrative film debut about a seamstress facing a series of misfortunes.

Rosine Mbakam | 2023 | 93 minutes | Color | French; Bamileke; Cameroon Pidgin | English subtitles

The hidden racism of cinematic technology is explored by three dynamic filmmakers in dialogue with one another.

Eléonore Yameogo, An van. Dienderen, and Rosine Mbakam | 2021 | 78 minutes | Color | French | English subtitles

Motivated by a desire to better understand her past, Rosine Mbakam returns to Cameroon after many years to interview her mother.

Rosine Mbakam | 2019 | 76 minutes | Color | French; Bamileke | English subtitles

In this gripping short drama, Domé, a young woman from Gabon who speaks flawless French, is apprehended at the airport on her way into Belgium.

Rosine Mbakam | 2021 | 20 minutes | Color | French | English subtitles