| Three Tales From Senegal
l'annesse(Fary the Donkey)
The three Senegalese
shorts in this brief film anthology adapt the ancient African storytelling
tradition to a modern medium and setting. If the novel and its close
relative, the feature film, reflect the complex, overlapping narratives
of urban life, then these cinematic fables encapsulate the basic beliefs
which support ordinary Africans as they try to navigate through a rapidly
Mambety has already produced two feature-length masterpieces of
African storytelling, Hyenas and
Touki Bouki. Now in Le Franc, he begins a trilogy
of shorts, Tales of Little People, whom he describes as, "the only
truly consistent, unaffected people in the world, for whom every
morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential
the French government's 50% devaluation of the West African Franc
(CFA) in 1994 as the basis for a whimsical yet trenchant parable
of life in today's Africa. For the millions of people impoverished
by this devaluation, the national lotteries became the only hope
for salvation. Mambety symbolizes the global economy as a game of
chance, which the poor are compelled to play, though the odds are
heavily stacked against them.
The hero of
this tale (and perhaps Mambety's alter ego) is Marigo, a penniless
musician living in a shanty town, relentlessly harassed by his formidable
landlady. He survives only through dreams of playing his congoma
(a kind of guitar) which has been confiscated in lieu of back rent.
At the end
of his luck, he buys a lottery ticket from the dwarf Kus, the god
of fortune, and glues it to the back of his door under a poster
of his hero, Yaadikoone, a legendary Senegalese Robin Hood. When
he wins, Marigo begins a harrowing odyssey across a Dakar of trash
heaps, dilapidated buildings and chaotic traffic. Stumbling along
under the unwieldy door, he seems to carry the burdens of an absurd
world on his shoulders. Played with slapstick gusto by the gangly,
rubber-legged Dieye Ma Dieye, Marigo is both comic and poignant,
a Senegalese Charlie Chaplin.
Marigo is told
the ticket has to be removed from the door so he carries it down
to the shore so the waves can wash it off. He is, of course, swamped
in the surf and loses the ticket, only to discover it pasted to
his forehead. In the last shot, Marigo is seen exulting on a barren
rock, as the breakers which opened the film continue to crash around
him. We, the viewers, are left to decide if he is a symbol of hope
or its ultimate futility.
on-line Mambety's last interview: The
Hyenas Last Laugh: A conversation with Djibril Diop Mambety
by Frank Ukadike (from Transition 78)
Mi (Little Bird)
Director: Mansour Sora Wade
from film school, director Mansour Sora Wade worked for the Senegalese
Ministry of Culture charged with the preservation and revitalization
of the country's oral tradition. In these two "fables on film,"
he displays a style characterized by economy and wit, each episode
leading to the inevitable moral conclusion.
(Little Bird), protests the increasing exploitation of children
in the fast-growing cities of the developing world. Mamadou (Modou)
is a talibe, a boy given by his poor parents into the care of a
marabout, or Moslem holy man. Each day the talibe are sent into
the bazaars to beg for alms for the holy man. One day Modou meets
another young boy, Ablaye, who scavenges the streets for junk to
give to his father, a farmer driven into the city by drought. The
two boys spend one day of freedom together scoffing at the venality
of the adult world around them. A song by Senegalese superstar Youssou
N'Dour (page 19) about a young bird who a crocodile tries to lure
from its nest with promises of food provides a commentary. In the
final scene, Modou runs along the beach towards the sea and, at
least in his imagination, is transformed into a bird, who can fly
free of the adult crocodiles who would devour him.
l'anesse (Fary the Donkey)
(Fary, the Donkey) gives an African twist to the timeless theme
of men led astray by foolish desires. Ibra refuses to marry any
woman with the slightest physical flaw. One day, Fary, a beautiful
young woman, arrives mysteriously at his village. Ibra marries her
but soon word spreads among the villagers that each day Fary transforms
herself into a donkey. Things that seem too good to be true usually
are. The moral: "The man who falls in love with beauty forgets that
there are other qualities in women. Since Fary, the donkey, have
uses the backdrop of the franc devaluation to give us some of the most
fantastic, magic-realist moments in African cinema...So surreal it creates
an African sublime."
-- Village Voice
has been compared to Godard, and it's easy to see why...A comedic, well-told
and visually poetic story."
-- San Francisco Bay Guardian
"A melody of
love to the disinherited of the earth."
-- Il Manifesto
"The film is
so irresistibly funny, one thinks of Jacques Tati."
-- Pardo News
In Wolof with English
82 minutes, three films on one cassette
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