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Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen

About the Film
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“Trinh T. Minh-ha’s first film, Reassemblage (1982), poses the question: how does the prism of observation we traditionally bring to viewing cultures outside of our own disturb them? Clarifying her intentions in a voiceover at the film’s outset, the film-maker states that she does not want to “speak about,” but rather “just speak nearby” her subject. Thus, Reassemblage disorients the viewer by eschewing any trace of narrative linearity in its representation of the Senegalese culture. In place of the omniscient voice-over we have been conditioned to expect from traditional ethnographic documentaries, a largely non-verbal, discontinuous soundtrack of music and silence accompanies the film’s montage of fleeting images of the Senegalese women, to which no stable meaning is or can be assigned. In the forty-minutes of footage, the lighting and camera angles are constantly changing, always before we can focus our gaze.”


- “Trinh T. Minh-ha,” La Triennale—Between the Near and Far: Concerning Ethnographic Poetics (traveling exhibition; “Palais de Tokyo and other venues 20 April–26 August 2012”), accessed December 8, 2012,

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Production Info
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“I didn't have money when I was making Reassemblage. That film can be said to be made by myself from A to Z.”—Trinh T. Minh-ha --Spangler, Tina. “Interviewer Interviewed,” Latent Image-Winter 1993, accessed December 8, 2012.
Senegal, Africa
Other Interesting Production Info: 
Reassemblage was shot on 16-millimeter film
Categories About the Film
activism and social justice
art and culture
interracial relations
rural life
Racial/Ethnic Affiliation: 
Filmmaking Team
Writer's Name: 
Trinh T. Minh-ha
Trinh T. Minh-ha and Jean Paul Bourdier
Trinh T. Minh-ha
Primary Cast: 
mostly female villagers in Senegal
Exhibition/Distribution Info
Primary distributors: Third World Newsreel, Women Make Movies
Where to find it/How to get it: 
Streaming (Netflix or other online sites)

New York Film Festival; Asian American Film Festival Humboldt (Honorable Mention); Festival Dei Popoli, Florence; Tyneside Film Festival (UK); Hong Kong Film Festival 

Personal Film Review and Cultural Context: 

 “I do not intend to speak about, just speak nearby.”  This is how Trinh T. Minh-ha frames her 1982 documentary, Reassemblage.  Her images of life in a Senegalese village do not claim to know a culture, and actively resist an ethnographic gaze habituated by many Western audiences.  Trinh, a renowned feminist and postcolonial theorist, narrates the film with surrounding sound, alternated with intermittent observation reflected in a thoughtful, composed voiceover.  She uses simple shots to articulate complexities of everyday life - especially those in the day-to-day lives of women. In an experimental 40-minute journey of colors and sounds, Trinh connects us with the eyes of people looking back.  Reassemblage is Trinh’s first film; she has also directed Naked Spaces - Living is Round; Surname Viet Given Name Nam; Shoot for the Contents; A Tale of Love; The Fourth Dimension; and Night Passage.

-Ariel Kraakman


Khadidiatou Gueye, “Ethnocultural Voices and African Aesthetics in Trinh Min-ha’s Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen,” in Research in African Literatures (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2008), 39.

Louie Yang, “Reassemblage: The Enlightenment of Documentary,” John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines at Cornell University, accessed December 8, 2012.