How many of you still go to the movies? Saint-Louis of Senegal has a fantastic annual documentary film festival with numerous screenings both indoors and in the open air, then there are some screenings also at the French Institute, but where can you actually go and watch films that are projected on a big screen? The answer is: nowhere.
There was a time when there were even two cinemas in town: Cinema Rex and Cinema Vox. The former has now entirely disappeared. Step in to the Cinema Vox building and you’ll be entering a world of old asbestos, falling coconut tree branches, wild cats, fruit bats, old records and an array of abandoned things and pieces of a world that once was. When you are inside, you can still sense that there once was a time regularly filled with that pleasant anticipation just before the film starts, unexpected power cuts, shushes to keep noisy children quiet, the sounds of swirling fans in the ceiling… and you wonder who came here? What kind of films did they see? How much did it cost? When did all this stop?
The tickets cost 100 cefa and 200 cefa, depending on the seating area. The Mamas watched Endo* films and when people asked: “What’s your plan for the evening?” they would answer: “Endo!” That was so particularly on Friday nights. There were also crime films. The screenings started at 9 pm and 11 pm. (A.D)
There were porn films, I saw many of them, and then there were those Indian films and Chinese shaolin films. That was karate! These three types of films were shown so that shaolin films and Indian films were shown in the daytime, and the porn films in the night. They were real porn films! The old would sit at the back and the young in front so that when the film was over, the old would walk out fast so that the young would not see them. Porn films attracted a lot of customers, usually the cinema would be full. (I.D)
Already before and ever since Youssou N’Dour bought this building, it has been sadly falling apart, as do so many buildings in Saint-Louis. At the time of writing this, I don’t even know whether this building still belongs to him or whether he has sold it, or simply abandoned the idea of whatever project he had in mind. The rumor has it, that if he ever were going to reopen the cinema in some form, the imam of the neighboring big mosque would not accept it because of the venue being too close to the mosque.
There are and there will always be rumors, but the truth is that this building can still be saved and put into good use. The telephone number of Mr. Youssou N’Dour, anyone?
* Bollywood films