At the Heart of The Madness of the Bush: Caledonian Coexistence

Jenny_Briffa DRSince 1983, the Caledonians have revelled in the colourful characters sketched by Bernard Berger, the author of the comic strip “La Brousse en folie”. 23 albums and 30 years of stories later, Bernard Berger invites us to follow in the steps of these characters who inspired him. Behind the humour, we discover a common destiny that definitively links the inhabitants of Caillou (Grande Terre). For the Caledonian director and co-producer of the film, Jenny Briffa, this is where the subject hails from. Let’s meet her…

How did you decide to make a film about a comic strip?

Canal + New Caledonia asked us to propose a subject to them with substance, that was yet light-hearted and based upon the idea of discovering the country. Gweltaz Kergoat, with whom I work, therefore suggested doing something on “La Brousse en folie”. When I called Bernard Berger, he informed us that the comic strip was going to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The timing was perfect. As far as I’m concerned, as journalist by training, I didn’t want to just walk in the bush with Bernard and have fun with the Bushmen. I wanted to take it further. As in reality, the characters in the comic strip have really evolved. It should not be forgotten that in the beginning the plates were published in a right-wing paper, the positioning has since changed.


Does this development correspond with the development of Caledonian society?

Yes, I think that through this comic strip, we observe the Caledonian society evolving over the last thirty years. We see the evolution of the country, the relationship between Kanaks, Caldoches (European inhabitants), Vietnamese and mainlanders. In the first albums, Bernard made caricatures of the “events,” now, de draws a FLNKS flag on the roof of the town hall in the village that he created.


“La Brousse en folie” also shows how each community perceives each other?

Yes, it shows how ultimately they each make fun of each other all the time. Even so, one wonders if it is not at times a form of racism. In fact, no, I don’t think so. It is the way in which we perceive ourselves. Bernard is Caledonian going back several generations. He knows how to handle his country’s humour.


The film is frequently funny, does that make it easier to convey a message?

The film was very well received in New Caledonia. We like to scare ourselves in Caledonia about communities and here, to see a light-hearted film that shows that we are evolving together, that we can make fun of each other without being racist, feels good.


The film speaks of “living together,” Bernard Berger explains moreover that it is not a utopia, but a reality.

I think that Bernard is correct in saying that we already have a common destiny, but we do not know it. We already live together. Even if it is true that we could live together even more, share more. Our everyday life is already together. We buy our groceries from the Vietnamese, our children’s nanny is French-speaking Belgian, there is an increasing number of contexts in Oceania, etc. We live together.


The documentary is unique in the fact that it introduces elements from the comic strip in the shape of 3D animation. Was this the intention from the start?

Yes, Gweltaz always dwelt upon the shooting of the documentary film. He wanted animation, “camera mapping”, he thought about many ways in which to integrate the comic strip into the film. I wanted it to be controlled so as not to overload the documentary. So we paced it, but it’s a lot of work, we had to select many thumbnails. We also worked with an animation studio in Nouméa.


Interviewed by Alexandra Sigaudo-Fourny