Saturday, September 13, 2014

Song of Sorrows

Bamako (2006) - Sissako
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Bamako is a seething indictment on policies of 'structural adjustment' imposed by IMF and The World Bank on Africa. The setting is an outdoor trial, a courtyard of ordinary Malian households where everyday life happens simultaneously with the proceedings. The witnesses, from all walks of life, testify against how the astringent policies of the western institutions that started 25 years ago brought more poverty, deaths and unpayable debt to many African nations including Mali, instead of development and prosperity. In the meantime, there is a slight narrative with an impoverished, emasculated husband and his beautiful wife who sings at bars for their income. He is learning Hebrew in the hopes of becoming a guard for an Israeli embassy in Mali that doesn't exist. A wedding and funeral happen in the same courtyard, life goes on still. Sissako playfully exerts film within a film called Death in Timbuktu, where cowboys are played by Danny Glover, Elia Suleiman and other film directors from developing countries doing OK corral style gunfights bearing not so subtle outcome - dead are the innocent local bystanders. Music in Bamako, traditional or otherwise, is a big part of expressing people's frustrations rather than dialog. It's a pointy yet poetic film that needs to be seen by anyone who has interests in the state of Africa.