From a hill in the Sahel region of Niger, a young boy looks out over the city of Zinder. Is this where his future lies? The contrast with the dusty streets below is huge. Many young Nigeriens without a place to learn or work join one of the gangs, orpalais. Siniya Boy, an excitable bodybuilder, waves his palais’s flag, featuring the word Itleur (“Hitler”). He explains that Hitler was a fearless American warrior.
The filmmaker and activist Aicha Macky, who was born in Zinder, has come here to make an in-depth portrait of this young generation in the Kara Kara district—a former leper colony that is now home to the forgotten underprivileged. As well as Siniya Boy, we meet Bawo—a taxi driver and remorseful former palais leader—and Ramsess, a gas smuggler who describes themself as half-woman, half-man.
Close-ups of scars bear witness to violence, but with its surprisingly hopeful tone, Zinder shows that’s not all there is to life here. The tough poses, domestic moments, hazardous smuggling trips, personal stories, and scenes in the red light district and jail all come together in a candid exploration that evades the stereotypes.