Monday, March 05, 2007


1989, Mali, directed by Cheick Oumar Sissoko

Cheick Oumar Sissoko's second film is centered on the idea of rebellion, in many different guises, whether against outmoded traditions, oppressive authority, or the simple rebellion of the young against the old. Although the film concerns itself repeatedly with politics, and particularly the relationship of villages to the apparently predatory Malian state (with criticisms made in courageously pointed terms), the primary focus is on issues surrounding the treatment of women - first the problem of forced marriage (and remarriage) and then, in the final thirty minutes, the divisive issue of female circumcision. Sissoko makes a blunt analogy - repeated through the film - implying that the traditional views of women reduce them to mere livestock; at one point a woman is trussed up like a goat and thrown on top of a truck.

The film's narrative construction is filled with digressions and non sequiturs, that approximates, more obviously than most films from Africa, the rhythms and storytelling patterns of the oral tradition, while some of the characters have the vivid outlines of folk tale caricature (this is heightened by the fact that several of the actors employ an exaggerated style drawn from traditional Koteba theatre; the most obvious cinematic parallel might be with the buffoonish characters seen in Japanese samurai films, also based on the theatre). Aesthetically, the film is also notable for the almost complete lack of close-up shots, which, in Sissoko's telling, is designed to distinguish the film from the excessive American focus on the individual over the community; it might be seen as a contradictory choice given the fact that many of the individuals in the film have suffered from the adherence of the community to outmoded tradition.

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