Friday, October 9, 2009

A Night with Cissé and Marty

Min Ye/Tell Me Who You Are (2009) - Cissé
*Conversation with Martin Scorsese afterwards
First of all, on our short Italian man Marty. I gotta admit, regardless of how I feel about his films, I admire him as a true cinephile, as a preserver of old films, for his My Voyage to Italy series and for releasing Les Amants du Pont-Neuf in the US after 9 years since its debut.
Scorsese was so taken by Cissé's previous effort Yeelen, he invited Cissé and his actress Sokana Gakou to present his new film here at Director's Guild Theater in NY. It was touching and funny as Cissé recalled Scorsese emailing him that he was coming to Mali and when he told all his colleagues, no one believed him until the famous director showed up at their doorstep. Jovial and chatty, Scorsese comes off as a very likable, personable man.

Cissé's story is truly inspiring. The famed old Malian director couldn't get another film made for 12 years because of the lack of money and support. Min Ye was a true labor of love(everyone involved was paid a symbolic one cent to work on it because it was Cissé film. It was shot economically with small video camera.

Set in modern day Mali where polygamy is still rampant, Min Ye tells a story of a loose woman who has an affair and has to face consequences for it. Mimi(Gakou), a woman in her fifties, is having her fish delivered(apparently some kind of sexual innuendo in Mali), by her married(with two wives) childhood sweetheart. Her husband who has other wives and his children all grown up, is fed up with Mimi's deceits. He informs police of her adultery which is punishable by law in a society where 80 percent of the population is muslim. Mimi is not a likable character. She's quite obnoxious. She's regarded as a woman who can't help herself when it comes to men, like some sex starved teenager.

The film is an honest depiction of jealousy, lack of equality and imperfect people. It's not sentimental nor judgmental in any way(which is part of the problem of this film, at least to me). Some of the long dialog scenes prove to be exhausting(yes you can do very long takes with videos but come on!). Its visuals are not lyrical but rather economical.

Mimi, played by a full figured, first time actress(Gakou is a Mali news anchor woman), is a woman trapped by the society and equivalent of a tragic heroine from some Henry James/Flaubert novel. All she needs is a little bit of playtime herself.

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