La Captive du Désert


A caravan passes in the desert. From its low, stationary angle, the camera records this procession of men and women, dressed in turbans, sandals, and robes. Some are wearing sneakers. Periodically, a camel passes by loaded down with materials. At the end of the group, a woman dressed in Western garb is followed by a man with a machine gun.

This is the opening shot of Raymond Depardon’s La Captive du désert (The captive of the desert, 1990), a film inspired by the experience of a French schoolteacher who was taken hostage by guerrilla groups during the civil war in Chad. Although Depardon is known primarily as a photographer, this is his second narrative film. The use of the static camera and the long take are characteristic of Depardon’s approach to film, yet the fixed position of his camera is offset by the constant movement of its subject within the frame. In playing each movement through

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