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A socially progressive Senegalese film with a strong, central female character
In the interest of being forthcoming, I will admit that I have very little experience with African films, only having seen two of them prior to watching this one (thanks to a World Cinema course I took this semester). FAAT KINE is by legendary Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, who directed one of the other Senegalese films I saw, MANDABI. Seeing as Senegal used to be a colony, his films (that I've seen) deal with the aftermath of independence, the struggle for cultural identity, etc., although much more in MANDABI than FAAT KINE. While MANDABI lamented the loss of traditional Senegalese cultural attitudes and the lingering effects of colonialism in a post-colonial society, FAAT KINE displays a more mature and evolved perspective on what Senegalese society has become and can be. In no way is this more evident than its central character, Faat Kine, who is a self-made, unwed mother who refuses to let a man control or take advantage of her. The setup for the story is that her two children have just passed the Baccalaureate, and meanwhile, people (including her children) keep trying to set her up with a man. For all of the fuss being raised about the lack of good roles for women in Hollywood, Ousmane Sembene certainly didn't have that problem here. Even though the film over 15 years old, and originated in a majority-Muslim society, Kine is a much stronger, well-written female character than you will find in many Hollywood films. Although gender roles in a highly conservative, religious society is the primary focus, Sembene also finds the time to occasionally comment on politics, the colonial issue and, in a fashion similar to MANDABI, makes his most important points in the final scenes. Ultimately, what Sembene is trying to say is that the Senegal/Africa of his youth is gone and the people who cling to the past are foolish and undeserving of respect. What is valued now is an independent mindset along with a strong devotion to country, i.e., they can't keep living in the shadow of their colonial past and must embrace the hybrid culture which emerged from their independence as a nation. Hopefully I've read the film at least partially correctly. Aside from the messages and themes, I thought it was well-made on a technical level. The acting was a bit stiff at times, but I can't hold that against the film too much. Tonally, it was a rather deft blend of drama and comedy, along with some surprisingly suggestive dialogue at times. The only legitimate fault I can find is that maybe the film was a little too long, and they could have cut back on the flashbacks. Overall, I know this won't be to everyone's tastes, but for those adventurous few who enjoy foreign films this should prove to be a valuable cultural experience.
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