|Index||6 reviews in total|
Faat Kiné is a fascinating mixture of drama, humor, and sociology. This is one of the first African films I have seen where all the characters are African--no colonial arrogance or benevolence intrudes into the story. (Granted, the fact that everyone in this African nation communicates in French automatically brings the colonial power into the story, but none of the characters is French.) Sembene is a master, and he manages to develop a masterpiece with what is obviously a low budget and a mostly amateur cast. There is a confrontational scene near the end of the film that is somewhat formulaic. Other than that, I have nothing but praise for this picture and its director.
Faat Kiné bore two children out of wedlock by two men, but managed to
them without help from the fathers. She has risen to manage a gasoline
station and is somewhat well off, owning a house and a small car. When
children pass college entry exams, the fathers come around asking for
respect and more.
A colorful but episodic look at life in modern Dakar, revolving around the people Faat Kiné meets over several days. Moves along quickly but even minor characters appear several times, so you can get to know them. The print I saw was 118 minutes.
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.
In 2001, Ousmane Sémebéne was able to construct a film that celebrates
women embracing their individual identity and holding the dominant role
of power in families and communities. Faat Kine is a character study of
an African woman who has endured numerous instances of rebuilding her
life after being trampled over physically, emotionally, and financially
by men she trusted. From her tribulations, she was able to uncover her
distinctive personality and obtain a unique voice. Subsequently, she
was able to succeed in her career, family, and friendships. As a film
character, Faat Kine homages to the conventional African woman and
represents the non- culture specific "modern woman" of today's world.
Feminism may be too unwieldy of a term to use with such certainty in describing the film's protagonist because the word itself is never used in Faat Kine. Faat Kine does not actively think of herself as a feminist, but from the hardships she has endured throughout her life, she embodies one inadvertently. She does not beg for everyone to notice her values because she does not actively seek them.
Faat Kine actually began with a more conservative outlook on life, but during her first pregnancy she began a metamorphosis from a daughter to a woman. It was a slow evolution because one could argue she was willing and eager to settle down with a husband. Everything changed when Djip's father swindled her out of her entire life savings. That betrayal was like a slap in the face that woke her up, which made her begin to seize control things for herself. Control is something Faat Kine has in bundles; she raises her children, manages her mother, runs her gas station, and interacts with the opposite sex on her terms. Independence and control are intertwined for Faat Kine. For example, she rejects the idea of Jean pursuing her at the gas station at the beginning of the film for reasons of retaining the prerogative of controlling her own body.
When Faat Kine does not hold control in the cusp of her hand with a situation that's essential to her, she becomes emotionally erratic, such as when her children try to arrange a date for her with Jean. Faat Kine interprets this as an attempt to undermine the work she has put into being a mother, without the physical assistance or financial support from their fathers, for the entirety of her children's lives. Subsequently, she erupts and berates her them. Rarely are women with as much gall and daring behavior as Faat Kine taken seriously, but here we not only take her seriously, but we root for her as she shocks us. This type of audacity is disclosed when she discharges pepper spray into the eyes of a woman who threatened her because of a man's false accusation.
The theme of feminism begins to take life of its own as it explicitly denounces men and their abusive, cruel behavior. The triumphant flashback to the real beginning of Faat Kine's transformative journey shows the unbridled violence women experience from men, and in Faat Kine's case, her own father. After hearing of his teenage daughter's pregnancy, Faat Kine's father tries to burn her alive for disgracing the family. But an act of love performed by her mothershielding Faat Kine and her unborn child from the fire with her own body emblemizes a victorious message of feminism. Nanny challenging her husband's livid actions is an ultimate act of rebellion, for she is giving the next generation a chance to survive and create a life separated from older traditions. This is quite the revelation considering both characters, Faat Kine and Nanny, began the scene kneeling at the father's feet.
By the time it reaches its climax, Faat Kine categorically criticizes the older generation males by literally shaming the fathers of Faat Kine's children. The entire film was built around and about women, yet the film pinnacles with Faat Kine's son, Djip (representing the younger generation of African men), discrediting the men who duplicitously took advantage of Faat Kine (the older men of Africa who repressed women and change). Faat Kine also darkens the reputations and accomplishments of the fathers when they are confronted with Faat Kine's notable success and wealthy bank account prior to events of the climax.
An idea of "the modern woman" exists within Sémebéne's film. He etches Faat Kine with traits of breaking tradition, and allows her to fasten her own set of morals. Faat Kine is a passionate character study of woman who assigns herself a self-written definition. Abandoned by her father, impregnated with two children, and robbed by a deceptive lover, Faat Kine had no other option but to build her life from the ground up. She views sex more freely than conservative women do, ranks at the top of the echelon of the gas station she manages, and speaks shamelessly to her friends about her sexual desires. (It is quite shocking the middle-aged women have sexual desires.) Faat Kine wants what any other woman wants from life: happiness. These qualities are so fluidly enumerated in Faat Kine's characterization that she not only serves as representation for women of her time and culture but women across the globe in today's world.
Not only does Faat Kine investigate and extol female independence in Africa, but it was ahead of its time in expounding the characteristics of a contemporary woman anywhere in the world. Faat Kine encompasses unambiguous feminist traits, and uses them to establish who she is as a person. The film accentuates female struggles most directly linked to nefarious treatment they received from men in their lives, but more importantly, Faat Kine gives women the chance to prevail over men in their accomplishments. Sémebéne memorializes a tribute to the women who did not receive the credit they deserved, and strives to propel past those ideologies with Faat Kine.
I had to watch this movie in my African Studies class and I fell in love with Faat Kine! When African culture is taught to most Americans, we only hear about huts and primitive villages. That is all well and good but I always wanted to know how life really is in Africa. But in this movie, I saw the real, modern Africa. The life of an assertive businesswomen is never the topic of any African discussions or history. This movie broke the stereotypical mold of a black women and it showed the world that African women are not pushovers. Faat Kine, you go girl! This movie was so profound and it has left me wanting more. I am now searching for more movies of Faat Kine's caliber. I highly recommend this movie to anyone, it is a definite must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is extremely boring, it tells a story of a female gas station owner and her life. Nothing exciting ever happens. The director has really "kept it real" and it feels just like a camera following a woman around as she lives her life. I had to watch other films by this director for a class, the others were not as boring. This film was also watched for an assignment...it better be worth the boringness with a good grade!! Overall, unless it's required, don't watch the film. But don't discount other films by this director, because they're not as bad...and don't discount other films about Africa, they're usually good, especially when done by a western director.
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