“When will you return?” This haunting question – familiar to many an expat – is asked of a Senegalese student in West Berlin.
If pioneering Senegalese filmmaker Safi Faye’s 1976 debut feature Letter From My Village explored the chasm between village life and the city from the perspective of her childhood in Fad’jal, then the same divide is refracted in this 1980 treasure created for broadcast on German television. Moussa, a young student, finds himself drifting – often alone – in Berlin, working odd jobs to send money, clothes and more, as demanded in letters from back home. But where does his heart lie? “Sooner or later, I’ll return to where my other self is.”
Also an ethnologist, Faye displays her skills as a filmmaker whenever she explores how her characters – here, not just Moussa but also his friends who hawk African ‘artefacts’ on the street – remain the same and at once different when placed in unfamiliar circumstances. Drawing on her brief time in Germany during a period of considerable cultural and political upheaval, this fascinatingly fluid work reveals Faye’s rich sense of self, blurring the lines of fact, fiction and form in ways that only deepen our connection to the truth.
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