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Rainer Werner Fassbinder
On the seacoast of Mauritania, some wait to go to Europe. Khatra, a spirited boy, wants an electric light so he can read at night. A stoic older man, Maata, tries to wire the room. Abdallah, a youth on his way to Europe, says good-bye to his mother. Nana looks back on the death of her daughter and her trip to Europe to inform the father. A girl takes singing lessons. Rooms have small windows, looking out onto foot traffic; transistor radios provide some link beyond. Huge ships anchor in the distance. The train comes through, stopping briefly. Offering a cigarette is a gesture of hospitality. Sand dunes and the ocean dominate the landscape. Hope springs amidst small expectations. Written by
"Heremakono" ("Waiting for Happiness") is a pure cinematic treat. A film in which the camera work, the minimal use of dialogue, the images themselves, are meant to tell the story, is what the Mauritanian-born, Russian-educated director, Abderrahmane Sissako, decided to grace the big screen with. We are made to share the day-to-day life of a little community from Nouadhibou, a small seaside village on the Mauritanian coast. It is a transit city, with predominantly temporary housing, called "heremakono", the Hassianyan for "waiting for happiness".
The film's charm is that we, the viewers, are forced to become temporary inhabitants. We learn disjointed information about the lives of the people we encounter in our way: Maata is the electrician who knows little about his job; Khatra is the orphaned boy who finds his shelter under Maata's protection; Abdallah is the son that decided to visit his mother before emigrating to Europe, frustrated by his rootless past; Nana is the local prostitute who lost a daughter from a failed relationship; Tchu is the corner's dealer of useless objects, trying to integrate in the distorted web of this deserted place. None find happiness in this exile before the voyage, and yet "maybe waiting is actually happiness" (Sissako).
Jacques Besse's remarkable cinematography and especially Oumou Sangare's soothing music are two shadows that are to hunt you for days after you've seen "Heremakono". A light bulb will never be only a light bulb, nor its light will ever identify with happiness. We all search for light, and only when we find it, then we switch it off, and only then do we gain peace. This seems to be the final message of "Waiting for Happiness".
Sissako, like Scorsese, does not consider time an enemy. He allows us enjoy the moment, its vibration, its numbness. And this is more laudable if we consider that most characters are played by non-professional actors. And what beautiful performances we are offered, especially from the young Khatra Ould Abdel Kader. A true talent! Beauty and peace . What more should we want
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