A money order from a relative in Paris throws the life of a Senegalese family man out of order. He deals with corruption, greed, problematic family members, the locals and the changing from...
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A money order from a relative in Paris throws the life of a Senegalese family man out of order. He deals with corruption, greed, problematic family members, the locals and the changing from his traditional way of living to a more modern one. Written by
Brad Yasuda <email@example.com>
Ousmane Sembene's Mandabi traces the descent of a poor Senegalese Muslim who, upon trying to cash a money-order at his village post office, somehow finds himself pitted against overwhelming bureaucratic and societal forces. The protagonist, Ibrahim (Makhouredia Gueye, unassuming and comically dignified), is a lazy and vain but fundamentally decent man, an illiterate villager whose unexpected windfall becomes the catalyst of his downfall - the means by which this simple, more-or-less honest, foible-ridden individual comes face-to-face with the indifference, the corruption of the modern world. His story takes on the quality of a fable, a slight, at times comic one. Sembene, an observer of human nature, keeps his characters at arms-length, and by watching them carefully from this middle-distance is able to convey their basic equality as creatures trying to survive in a confusing, unfair world. It also happens that this mid-range staging is perfect for creating a deliberate, unobtrusive sense of comedy, of human folly gently revealed. The film is, at the same time, a window upon the culture of post-colonial Senegal, a world that seems poised uneasily between tradition (village life; Islam) and modernity (bureaucracy; crime; money-grubbing). There's no question that Sembene is on the side of the little people - he may chide Ibrahim for letting his wives run his life, for being irresponsible with money (he borrows on the money-order before it's cashed), but he also applauds him for his doggedness and faith, the things that poor people always have to lean on. A modest film but a wise one (despite a slightly forced denouement).
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