Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 71: Mon Jul 26

Mandabi (Sembene, 1968): BFI Southbank, Studio, 9pm

This film is on an extended run at BFI Southbank from July 23. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review:
The second feature by esteemed Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène (Black Girl), this 1968 film is based on one of Sembène’s own novellas, The Money-Order. Ibrahima Dieng is a devout, unemployed Muslim in Dakar who receives a money order from his nephew in Paris; his struggle to cash it is what propels this Kafka-esque, postcolonialist pasquinade. Ibrahima becomes fodder for speculation after his neighbors learn he’s in receipt of a large sum of money. (He and the rest of the cast are portrayed by non-professional actors, eliciting comparisons to Italian neorealist cinema; the plot is often likened to that of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.) Soon come the solicitations, which Ibrahima, shown as being likewise vainglorious and obliging, is unable to resist; his two wives, however, mindful of their several children, are more discerning. To redeem the order, Ibrahima discovers he needs an identification card, and this, in turn, requires he obtain his birth certificate and get photos taken for his ID. Each step of the process comes with its own struggles, largely by way of corrupt bureaucrats who demand exorbitant bribes to accomplish the tasks at hand—Ibrahima’s share of the money order basically gets spent before he’s even able to cash it. What initially seems like a fateful windfall devolves into a kind-of Brechtian vaudeville: the capitalistic aggressors here are the local bourgeoisie who take advantage of the as-yet-unenlightened, wielding their comparative knowledge and power against those who haven’t yet caught up. This wryly mordant film achieved many firsts for the illustrious father of African cinema: it was his first film in color, the first feature film from Africa to be exhibited in the U.S., and the first film ever made in Sembène’s native Wolof language.
Kathleen Sachs

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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