Tabataba de Raymond Rajaonarivelo
Raymond Rajaonarivelo © Zama Diaspora

Raymond Rajaonarivelo's film Tabataba, restored by the Cinémathèque Afrique and selected for the Festival Lumière

The Malagasy language is allegorical, words are images and images are words.

Raymond Rajaonarivelo's work, still little known, is the work of a cinema enthusiast who is so proud of his culture and origins that he uses them as the source for his rare feature films. The only Malagasy director to have been selected for the Cannes Film Festival, his films are a poignant blend of fiction and documentary, recounting social and political events in his country. 

Restored by the Cinémathèque française and the Institut français' Cinémathèque Afrique, Raymond Rajaonarivelo's first film, Tabataba, has been selected by the Festival Lumière in Lyon. The film will receive its premiere on 16 and 17 October 2023. 

Updated on 24/01/2024

5 min

Born in 1952 in Antananarivo, Raymond Rajaonarivelo graduated from high school before leaving his native country for France, where he still lives today. After studying film in Montpellier, he enrolled at the University of Paris VIII, before starting his career as an assistant director for Rochant, Ferrero and Barbousa. He also assisted the famous cinematographer Darius Khondji, with a view to becoming a director of photography. In 1974, he made his first short film, Izaho lokanga, ianao valiha, inspired by the poet Dox. He turned to feature films in 1988 with Tabataba, which was selected for the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes. It was the first time a Malagasy film had been shown on the Croisette. This story of a village during the Malagasy insurrection of 1947 captured the hearts of spectators, who awarded it the audience prize.

Eight years later his new project, Quand les étoiles rencontrent la mer, was released in France by the distributor Eurozoom in December 1996. In 2005, he returned to documentary filmmaking, teaming up with Cesar Paes to make Mahaleo, a film about the Madagascan group of the same name, formed at the time of the political events of 1972. 

In just a handful of projects, Raymond Rajaonarivelo has established a style in which he has chosen to tell the story of his country and portray it with realism and tenderness. In his first film, Tabataba, he focused on the 1947 uprisings in Madagascar, in conflict with French colonisation at that time. Through the eyes of a child who has come to tell the villagers that they must take up arms, he presents an unorthodox vision of history. A personal story that he set out to tell as soon as he finished his film studies, as a duty to remember. 

Raymond Rajaonarivelo explains that he wrote his screenplay after collecting numerous testimonies. In this first work, he tried to extract a lesson about a situation that is still relevant today, that needs to be observed in order to understand the future. In his next feature film, Quand les étoiles rencontrent la mer, he wanted to focus on the story of a man born lame and confronted with superstitions. In particular, he recounts the cult of ancestors and the invisible world, imagined as an infinite extension. 

Tabataba was the first Madagascan film to be selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988, where it was awarded the Audience Prize. The following year, it was shown at the Taormina Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. 

Recently restored by the Cinémathèque française and the Cinémathèque Afrique of the Institut français, with the support of the director himself and Hiventy (TransPerfect media France), the film will be previewed on 16 and 17 October 2023 at the Festival Lumière in Lyon. The Cinémathèque Afrique of the Institut français contributes to the conservation, restoration, digitisation, promotion and distribution of African cinema worldwide. It provides researchers and programmers with a catalogue of more than 1,700 titles, including more than 600 rights-free titles for non-commercial distribution. 

  • 1974


    Raymond Rajaonarivelo makes his first short film, Izaho lokanga, ianao valiha.

  • 1988


    His first feature film, Tabataba, is selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Festival.

  • 1996


    He directs his second feature film, Quand les étoiles rencontrent la mer.

  • 2023


    His debut feature film, Tabataba, is shown in a restored version at the Lumière Festival.

L'institut français, LAB