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Good Luck Is a Curse in This Classic Film From Senegal

Good Luck Is a Curse in This Classic Film From Senegal
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Good Luck Is a Curse in This Classic Film From Senegal

Good Luck Is a Curse in This Basic Movie From Senegal

Neorealism was born in postwar Italy. By the mid-Nineteen Fifties, nevertheless, its best examples had been made overseas. “Mandabi” (“The Cash Order”), the second characteristic movie by the dean of West African filmmakers Ousmane Sembène (1923-2007), is one. Filmed with a forged of nonprofessionals on the streets of Dakar, Senegal, it’s a mordent fable of fine fortune gone unhealthy. Newly restored, the 1968 film could be streamed from Movie Discussion board, beginning Jan. 15.

“Cease killing us with hope,” exclaims one of many two wives of the film’s dignified but hapless protagonist Ibrahima, a religious Muslim who hasn’t labored in 4 years. The postman simply informed them that, like a bolt out of the blue, a cash order had arrived from Ibrahima’s nephew in Paris.

Information travels quick. Needy neighbors, to not point out the native imam, arrive with their arms out. In the meantime, Ibrahima learns that with the intention to money the cash order, he should have an id card, and to get an id card, he wants a beginning certificates, and to acquire a beginning certificates, he should have a good friend in court docket — to not point out {a photograph} and the cash to get one. Being illiterate, Ibrahima can even require somebody to clarify each process. As soon as the command heart for France’s African colonies, Dakar has no scarcity of bureaucrats.

Whereas it’s by no means made clear precisely how Ibrahima has managed to assist two wives, seven youngsters and his personal vainness in a metropolis the place recent water is a money commodity, his wives wait on him as if he had been a child. An precise toddler wails off-camera as Ibrahima is pampered however a extra profound irony considerations his id. His mission to money his nephew’s cash order reveals that he has none, at the least in any official sense. Worse, his quest for a windfall that’s not even his units him up as a mark for all method of swindlers, hustlers and thieves — in a phrase, society at massive.

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The individuals Ibrahima encounters are largely consumed with self-interest. “Mandabi” nevertheless is kind of beneficiant — wealthy intimately, a feast for the eyes and ears. The colours are vibrant and saturated; the title track was an area hit till, apparently recognizing its subversive energy, the Senegalese authorities banned it from the radio. (Based mostly on a brief story by Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, the film has an advanced relation to authority which can account for the lower than convincing optimism of its tacked-on ending.)

Reviewing “Mandabi” when it was proven on the 1969 New York Movie Pageant, Gadget Clock’s movie critic Roger Greenspun wrote that, “as a comedy coping with life’s miseries, it shows a managed sophistication.” Certainly, “Mandabi” might initially seem to be a narrative out of Kafka or the E-book of Job, however it primarily criticizes a post-colonial system that pits class towards class within the exploitation of practically all.

It’s additionally a satire of self-deception. Years in the past, Sembène informed two interviewers from Movie Quarterly that “Mandabi” had been proven all through Africa “as a result of each different nation claims that what occurs within the film happens solely in Senegal.”

Obtainable for screening beginning Jan. 15; filmforum.org.

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