2000, Senegal, directed by Ousmane Sembène
Notwithstanding the fact that there's an awful lot going on here - commentary on the status of women in Senegalese society, on that country's post-colonial legacy, on the backdrop of the 2000 elections - Faat Kiné has to count as something of a disappointment by Ousmane Sembène's remarkably high standards. That was my impression in 2001, and if anything that sense is heightened on repeat viewings of the film, which highlight the rather schematic plotting, and some of the less subtle aspects of Sembène's commentary on social issues (it's quite a contrast to his previous film, Guelwaar).
Some of the reviews by well-regarded critics seem to me more than a touch patronising, since they fail to engage with the film properly, heaping the kind of unalloyed but uninformative praise that Sembène himself would no doubt skewer if New York critics were of any interest to him. Unlike many of his previous films, the social commentary sometimes stops the film in its tracks, as if to say, 'now we'll talk about AIDS', for example, rather than being interwoven into the text itself. Although Sembène also makes interesting use of colour (in both locations and costumes), and has an eye for small incidents of street life that give a vivid sense of contemporary Dakar, the film isn't as aesthetically pleasing as most of his work, either; it has the flat feel of a pretty ordinary television soap at times, with several unattractive and distracting zoom shots that are a striking contrast to the smooth camera movements elsewhere in his work.