Ousmane Sembene, Senegal 1968, 92 minutes
Rating: PG Runtime: 92 minutes
|Director: Ousmane Sembene|
Producer: Robert de Nesle
Screenplay: Ousmane Sembene
Cinematography: Paul Soulignac
Editors: Gilbert Kikoïne, Max Saldinger
Music: Ousmane Sembene
|Makhouredia Gueye (Ibrahima Dieng)|
Ynousse N’Diaye (Méty, the First Wife)
Isseu Niang (Aram, the Second Wife)
Mustapha Ture (M’barka, the Shopkeeper)
Farba Sarr (Mbaye Sarr, the Business Agent)
Serigne N’Diayes (Imam)
The great Senegalese film director Ousmane Sembène is considered by many to be the father of African cinema. His earliest feature, Black Girl, screened at Wellington Film Society in 2017 and was a searing indictment on French colonial rule. That film was made in the French language but for his immediate follow-up, Mandabi, Sembène wanted to make a film in his native Wolof language, in order to be more accessible to the wider Senegalese people (the majority of whom don’t speak French).
Mandabi centres around Ibrahima, a man with a large family, who receives a money order from his nephew in Paris. In a place where poverty is the reality for most people, this might prove a way out so Ibrahima needs to cash it. However that seemingly simple task escalates into a bureaucratic and Kafkaesque nightmare as he deals both with navigating the rules and regulations required to have the money order cashed, as well as a multitude of hangers-on who see him as a source of money for themselves. Unlike his earlier feature, the focus here is on corruption and greed as well as traditional life in Senegal being overwhelmed by the so-called modern world.
“Unredressed inequality is reflected in cultural conflict between the Francophone élite, in Euro-style suits, and the Wolof-speaking masses. Sembène looks ruefully yet tenderly at the ruses and wiles of the poor, whose desperate struggles – with the authorities and with one another – distract them from political revolt.”
—Richard Brody, New Yorker.