A mordant social satire from the Senegalese ‘father of African cinema’, Ousmane Sembène’s landmark 1968 film screens in a stunning new 4K restoration.
The first feature film in an African language, 'Mandabi' marked a major step towards authentic cinema from the region.
Ibrahima Dieng (Makhouredia Gueye) is a proud man of uncertain means, living in a village outside Dakar with two eminently resourceful wives, Maty and Aram, and their seven children. A windfall arrives in the form of a money order from France, sent by his nephew, Abdou, but word soon gets out and Ibrahima is swamped with requests for loans from his neighbours. And that’s before he has to run the gauntlet of a seemingly intractable bureaucracy to cash the money order.
Ibrahima Dieng may be a complicated protagonist for contemporary audiences to identify with. A puffed-up peacock of a man, given to exaggeration and saving face, he isn’t an immediately sympathetic character, particularly given some undeniably paternalistic attitudes on casual display in his relationship with his wives. (A wry aside from one of Ibrahima’s neighbours, who muses “deliver us from the dominance of women”, reveals that the men are entirely cognisant the prevailing status quo works overwhelmingly in their favour.) That dissonance accounted for, we soon come to appreciate that Ibrahima is a poor, illiterate, traditional man of faith who appears increasingly marginalised in a modern African nation in transition that, through no fault of his own, he seems increasingly ill-equipped to navigate. The sting in the tale of Sembène’s satirical comedy is its bitterly ironic depiction of a society transformed by colonialism and plagued by corruption, greed, and poverty.
– Roberta Ciabarra; Curator, Film
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