Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wênd Kûuni

1982, Burkina Faso, directed by Gaston Kaboré

'Village films' constitute a genre of themselves with African cinema, and Burkinabé directors have made some of the most notable contributions; Idrissa Ouedraogo's films, like Yaaba, made waves internationally, while Gaston Kaboré has spent his entire career reworking and subverting the genre (his most recent film, Buud Yam, from 1997, functions as a kind of sequel to this film). Although on the surface, Wênd Kûuni appears to be a simple recreation of a pre-colonial, 'timeless' Africa, the kind of film that some critics have attacked for simply providing exotic images to the West, in truth it deconstructs and makes use of the rhythms and logic of folk tales to convey a plea for tolerance that ultimately calls into question at least some aspects of tradition.

Like Ousmane Sembène, Kaboré is particularly concerned with the treatment of women, and contrasts the experiences of two different villages dealing with issues surrounding the re-marriage of widows (or, in one case, a woman who is assumed to be a widow simply because her husband has been absent for so long). The deceptive simplicity of the treatment masks, almost until the end, the power of the indictment of the crueler consequences of tradition. Kaboré's film has a beguiling tempo, too, that draws the viewer in, pushing the story forward while capturing a sense of the rituals of daily life and social interaction that, in some cases, continue to survive.

1 comment:

Lesley said...

J'ai rencontré Gaston Kabouré quand j'étais étudiante à Bowling Green -- une de mes profs venait de Burkina Faso, et ils étaient amis... Bowling Green also has an abroad program in Burkina Faso (which I, sadly, was unable to join) and Kabouré taught a cinema course there the summer after I graduated... He's unbelievable. Though I shamefully admit that I've never seen one of his films...


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