Friday, February 09, 2007

Allah Tantou

1991, Guinea/France, directed by David Achkar

Allah Tantou (which translates as 'God's Will') is an extremely personal documentary that focuses on the director's father, a prominent diplomat in the newly independent Guinea of Sékou Touré in the 1960s whose life ended in the notorious Camp Boiro prison in 1971; the prison functions both as a literal death camp and as a metaphor for Guinea's dashed hopes.

Achkar blends archival footage and family films with dramatic re-creations of his father's imprisonment, using the diaries that the elder Achkar, a meticulous writer, kept on every spare scrap of paper he could obtain. Although it's fairly brief, at just over an hour, the final twenty minutes are a little repetitive, reiterating points already eloquently made even where they successfully evoke the sense of routinized repetition of prison life, as well as the prisoner's constantly racing thoughts. One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is its use of large amounts of home movie footage, unusual for any African family of the 1960s, even at this stratum of society.

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