Good Luck Is a Curse in This Basic Movie From Senegal

Neorealism was born in postwar Italy. By the mid-Fifties, nonetheless, its best examples have been made overseas. “Mandabi” (“The Cash Order”), the second function 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 will 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 instructed 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 a view to money the cash order, he will need to have an id card, and to get an id card, he wants a delivery certificates, and to acquire a delivery certificates, he will need to have a good friend in court docket — to not point out {a photograph} and the cash to get one. Being illiterate, Ibrahima may also require somebody to elucidate each process. As soon as the command middle 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 help two wives, seven kids and his personal vainness in a metropolis the place contemporary water is a money commodity, his wives wait on him as if he have 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, not less than 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 giant.

The folks Ibrahima encounters are largely consumed with self-interest. “Mandabi” nonetheless is sort of beneficiant — wealthy intimately, a feast for the eyes and ears. The colours are vibrant and saturated; the title tune 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 a sophisticated 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, The New York Instances’s movie critic Roger Greenspun wrote that, “as a comedy coping with life’s miseries, it shows a managed sophistication.” Certainly, “Mandabi” might initially appear to be a narrative out of Kafka or the Ebook of Job, but it surely basically criticizes a post-colonial system that pits class in opposition to class within the exploitation of almost all.

It’s additionally a satire of self-deception. Years in the past, Sembène instructed 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.”

Out there for screening beginning Jan. 15; filmforum.org.

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