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Djibril Diop Mambéty
Djibril Diop Mambéty,
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It is the dawn of Senegal's independence from France, but as the citizens celebrate in the streets we soon become aware that only the faces have changed. White money still controls the government. One official, Aboucader Beye, known by the title "El Hadji," takes advantage of some of that money to marry his third wife, to the sorrow and chagrin of his first two wives and the resentment of his nationalist daughter. But he discovers on his wedding night that he has been struck with a "xala," a curse of impotence. El Hadji goes to comic lengths to find the cause and remove the xala, resulting in a scathing satirical ending. Written by
I love international films and have already seen many African films, so my not being in love with "Xala" has nothing to do with its roots. The bottom line is that while the story is very interesting, the story is so incredibly slow and poorly constructed that it loses much of its punch. It's really a shame, as basic story idea is great.
The film begins with a cute scene where the white colonial powers are replaced by black ones--and you see that there really is no change. Instead of a white kleptocracy*, there is now a black one--either way, the people of a fledgling African republic are screwed. The main character in the rest of the film is Mr. Hadji. Hadji is a minister in the new government and is going to celebrate his new wealth by marrying for the 3rd time--even though, as it turns out, he is over-stretching his finances. Sure, he IS rich by African standards but the money soon disappears--leaving him not only metaphorically impotent but literally so! This is a great metaphor for hypocrisy and greed in post-colonial Africa.
So why wasn't I bowled over by the film? Well, the biggest problem was the pacing. While the film runs over two hours, it could easily have been done in 75 minutes and the leaden pace is a serious problem. Additionally, the film, as it's captioned now, is a seriously flawed picture as the captions are, at times, almost impossible to read. White captions don't work well here and too many times I struggled to read them. Overall, an interesting curio from a historical sense, but a film that would be very difficult viewing for the average person.
*A kleptocracy is a government typified by rampant corruption and stealing and the good of the people is irrelevant.
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