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Tall as the Baobab Tree (2012)
"Grand comme le Baobab" (original title)

 -  Adventure | Drama  -  5 May 2013 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 63 users  
Reviews: 1 user | 39 critic

In a rural African village poised at the outer edge of the modern world, a teenage girl hatches a secret plan to rescue her 11-year-old sister from an arranged marriage.


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Title: Tall as the Baobab Tree (2012)

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Credited cast:
Alpha Dia ...
Cheikh Dia ...
Mboural Dia ...
Mouhamed Diallo ...
Dior Ka ...
Oumul Ka ...


Coumba and her little sister Debo are the first to leave their family's remote African village, where meals are prepared over open fires and water is drawn from wells, to attend school in the bustling city. But when an accident suddenly threatens their family's survival, their father decides to sell 11-year-old Debo into an arranged marriage. Torn between loyalty to her elders and her dreams for the future, Coumba hatches a secret plan to rescue her young sister from a fate she did not choose. A powerful voice from Africa's young generation, Grand comme le Baobab (Tall as the Baobab Tree) poignantly depicts a family struggling to find its footing at the outer edge of the modern world... where questions of right and wrong are not always black and white. Written by Mala Bawer

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Adventure | Drama

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Release Date:

5 May 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tall as the Baobab Tree  »

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The director was 22 years old when production began, only a few years older than the students who inspired the story. See more »

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Revealing inside view in rural African village and its culture. Assembled from true stories about struggling between traditional and modern views on man/woman roles
14 July 2013 | by (Amersfoort, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

I saw this film within the Rotterdam film festival 2013 (IFFR), where it was part of the Bright Future section. Though made by an American, this film looks like a real African story about real African people in a real rural village. It shows traditional values upheld by the elder people conflicting with upcoming more modern insights from younger people, without taking a stand in what is right and what is wrong. Better still, we get the chance to identify ourselves with both sides, leaving us wondering what we had done in such circumstances.

In the final Q&A with the film maker, we hear how this feature film started as a documentary but got a life of its own when delving deeper in related issues. In the context of their original plan, they met local girls who were the first ones going to school, telling how it felt being at the forefront of new developments that might overturn traditional viewpoints eventually.

The original plan to make a documentary about every-day's life in the village, took a different turn when one of the girls told "a" true story about marriage. Exploring the issues of arranged marriages further, they heard several similar stories. The resulting plot in the film at hand is based on real events. It is in fact a combination of several accounts, all having in common the struggle between traditional African culture and village rules on one hand, against upcoming trends wherein younger people more and more strive to define their own future on the other hand.

The story starts when the son whose daily task it is to herd the cows, has an unlucky fall when climbing in a tree on the lookout for more fertile grounds. The logic of the father dictates that the eldest daughter quits school, to take over the herding task for the time her brother is incapable. Additionally, he looks for a suitable husband for his youngest daughter, in order to pay the bills from the son's medical treatment. The father persists in his one-sided decisions, in spite of resistance from several sides inside and outside his family.

Important observation is that everyone wants best for the family, each from his/her own viewpoint and reasoning. This is what we see throughout the whole film. The best example is what happens (nothing) with the advice from the local school teacher. He sees only one solution, that is going to the police and filing a complaint. But his advice is ignored by our main character, because she does not want the family look bad. In contrast, the mother figure is totally useless here. Notable quote from her lips: "Don't you see. All we have is our culture." Similarly, the father merely repeats several times: "This is the only solution. There is no other way."

It is not useful to condense the rest of the story here. Suffice it to say that the daughters think of creative ways to raise money, and found a substitute for herding the cattle in the mean time. (*** warning *** spoiler ahead ***) Finally a large amount of money is raised. When the prospected husband arrives to take the younger daughter, the daughters show the money they kept under the mattress. The father consults the local village elder what to do with the situation at hand. He's advised that the giveaway should go on, since he gave his word: "It is our way". And so it happens, in other words the expected happy end is taken away from us viewers.

All in all, I forgot very soon that the main characters have no acting experience whatsoever. It really gives us the feeling of a fly-on-the-wall when witnessing the story to develop, thereby showing us the dilemma's from several sides. I gave the maximum score for the audience award when leaving the theater. This film received an above average score of 4.309 (out of 5) from 256 votes, yielding a deserved 19th place (out of 178).

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