The Sec­re­tary of the Invisible

Super 16 mm film transferred to video


Thesecretary of the Invisible was shot on the river Niger close to the city of Niamey. It features Damoure Zika and Moussa Hamidou, who were respectively the principal actor and the sound engineer of the French filmmaker and ethnologist Jean Rouch.
They are heading upstream on their pirogue to a village where an unofficial “Holley” ceremony — an animist Songhay ritual — is due to take place. During the celebration the camera is bewitched and reveals the figure of a chameleon. The reptile’s change of colour and its ability to camouflage are placed in parallel with the ability of the camera to become an invisible eye and to be at the service of this condition.
The title of this film is an expression used by Elizabeth Costello in J.  M. Coetzee’s book, whose character was inspired by the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz.

Location: River Niger, Niger, May 2007
Camera: Aaton XTR +
Lenses: Zeiss 12–120 mm zoom and 50 mm prime
Stocks: 7274/200T and 7218/500T Kodak
Director of photography: Jessica Servières
Sound: Matthias Fayos, Moussa Hamidou and Damien Perrollaz
Editing: Helle le Fèvre
Processing and grading: GTC, Joinville-le-Pont, France
Producers: Karen Katz, Lydia Martin and Corinne Castel