Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tableau ferraille

1997, Senegal, directed by Moussa Sene Absa

Moussa Sene Absa's second feature builds on the promise of Ça twiste à Poponguine, with a tighter structure and a sharp critical intelligence at work in this examination of Senegal's development, using polygamy as a metaphor to present two alternative futures for the country. Absa uses a flashback structure to examine the rapid rise - and apparently equally rapid fall - of an ambitious but charming young politician, Daam (played by Ismael Lo, who also provides a memorable soundtrack). As with Djibril Diop Mambéty's La Petite vendeuse de Soleil, Absa's film is concerned with ways in which Senegal can ensure its own true independence in the modern world; escaping from French (and, as often, American) influence implies an uncertain future, but perhaps, ultimately, a more dignified one.

The film does not prioritize politics entirely at the expense of the personal, though; polygamy is examined as an issue of continuing contemporary relevance in Senegal, and Absa is careful to note both the tensions and solidarity that can emerge from the arrangement, though the film tends to sympathize far more with one of Daam's wives than with the other, with the audience invited to identify with the more "African" woman who is mistreated by other women when she does not bear children.

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