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jared-micah-johnson

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Bamako (2006)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
the most stylish and and politically charged film since Godard's Tout Va Bien, 3 December 2008
8/10

The film Bamako acts as a stylish docudrama covering the issue of the "African debt," along with other political turmoil, and daily Mali life in a quite brilliant marriage of the two in a storyline of a failing marriage coming to a close as a heated trial takes place in the courtyard outside of their home.

Watching the film, we witness a debate between parties over the accumulated debt owed to the World Bank, IMF, and other "foreign aid" and the subjugating and anti-progressive cycle, in which they are now stuck, taking place in a courtyard of Bamako, Mali. The people of the court consist of both actors and actual activists (a style of mixed film-making innovated by Werner Herzog and continually popularized by Harmony Korine). The trial, performed in the traditionally Western means of democracy, takes place in the midst of surviving African tradition and culture. Director Sissako further implements with increased power his argument against the discussed globalization with this reconciliation and at times even presents the hilarity of their coexistence (i.e. - the fact this is in a courtyard and not a courtroom, the elderly man who expects to be heard in his culture without permission to speak by a judge, the toddler's squeaking shoes sounding off throughout eloquent speeches).

One of the most interesting creative decisions of the film-making was the stylish inclusion of a film within the film, an ironic western starring Danny Glover, also a producer of the film, and Palestinian director Elia Suleiman. Here again Sissako makes multiple uses of an item, here with paralleling metaphors of pillaging bad guys as well as humorous parody of non-American westerns (popularized in Cambodia and Thailand (see Tears of the Black Tiger, a homage to Thai westerns in the 1950s), though I am unsure if this is truly a popular genre of Mali). Sissako has also admitted that he chose a multi-ethnic cast for the western in illustrating that it was not solely the West to be blamed for the troubles of Africa. I also see that many of the other users' comments show that they missed the intent of this scene, possibly because they don't expect such leveled humor from primitive Africa (racists!).

As a film geek, I could continue to shower the film in technical praise: the documentary style of filming adding a greater objectivity to the story, the beautiful shots like the man reclining beneath the rusty amplifier, sounding the song of the old man in court, the silent testimony of the schoolteacher, etc. However, I will stay objective in discussion of the film's politics. The film's points are clear. The foreign solution to poverty increased Mali's poverty due to privatization and lost government jobs. The foreign solution to its economic growth has hindered such growth by creating a structure dependent on exports and suffocating it with the accumulating interest of the debt. The sad excuse for a reduction of the debt is laughable as a solution. In other words, the cowboys were shooting aimlessly at nothing.