Exclusive: Watch Emilia Rüf’s documentary about the spiritual bicycle repairman of Saint-Louis, Senegal

If you’ve ever been to Saint-Louis, Senegal’s precious and historical northern island city, Meïssa Fall will be a familiar and agreeable sight. Found working passionately in his scrap metal-filled workshop every day, he’s equal parts a bicycle repairman, artist, healer and philosopher. He’s also the gentle-souled subject of Emilia Rüf’s short documentary, Meïssa.

The emerging filmmaker studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, and came across Fall while on an artist’s residency at the Waaw centre for art and design in 2016.  They shared a love of film and so she began visiting him every day to capture Fall fixing and soldering, recycling and creating, unmaking and making, with the end results being anything from a humming scooter engine to a Modernist mask to an elegant sculpture of a bird. The camera also follows Fall through the streets and beaches of the crumbling colonial city, and into his family home, while he shares his simple pearls of wisdom.

“There are a lot of pieces of a bicycle. They all show solidarity to one another. No one can exist without the other. That’s the meaning of life and of progress to me,” he muses. “You have to be together with others. To have to give and make progress, that’s how you exchange. We’re all the same. It’s life that unites us. Let’s be united.”

Rüf’s lo-fi, naturalistic film was shown at numerous film festivals and events throughout 2017, including the Helsinki African Film Festival, the Bozeman Doc Series in Montana, Visions du Réel in Nyon, Ethnografilm in Paris and at the Institut Francais in Saint Louis. And now you can watch it on Nataal.

Published on 09/01/2018