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 ... See full summary »
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
Seen any decent Senegalese films recently? Ones from 1974, with French subtitles? If you haven't stopped reading already, then...Xala means "Curse of impotence", which gets placed on a corrupt businessman, when he passes over his older wives for a "new" virgin one.
Though it looks very 1970's, with rather tepid colour and and a somewhat tinny sound, this very good film from Ousmane Sembene is as good as contemporary cinema gets in home-grown Africa. My viewing was for the 2nd time on Film 4, admittedly screened in the small hours.
It's actually an excellent snapshot of many an African country coming to terms with their new-found independence. Native rituals and traditions still run deep, against the new found idealism of political freedom. But, mega corruption amongst Ministers and Officials is rife and the script has savage satire running through it, that could be applicable anywhere. Whilst they bemoan and decry their now departed Colonial forebears, they have become addicted to their Mercedes limos and material excesses and readily abuse their power at will.
Some describe Xala as a sex comedy - comedy is going a bit far but there is pleasure indeed to be found in strong-charactered women, beacons for the future brow-beating their men-folk and the then rather pathetic reactions from them. Take away a powerful man's effectiveness of his penis and he is no longer powerful. That is a broad and slightly inaccurate metaphor, of course, but you can see where this is going.
Xala is pretty long and requires some staying-power but is embellished with some good music and performances. The story overall is a surprisingly universal and approachable one.
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