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Marie Augustine Diatta,
Mame Ndoumbé Diop
It is the dawn of Senegal's independence from France, but as the citizens celebrate in the streets we soon become aware that only the faces have changed. White money still controls the government. One official, Aboucader Beye, known by the title "El Hadji," takes advantage of some of that money to marry his third wife, to the sorrow and chagrin of his first two wives and the resentment of his nationalist daughter. But he discovers on his wedding night that he has been struck with a "xala," a curse of impotence. El Hadji goes to comic lengths to find the cause and remove the xala, resulting in a scathing satirical ending.Written by
The beginning scene of Ousmane Sembene's film Xala is a tragicomic metaphor for the euphoria of the African independence movement, which was followed quickly by the installation of puppet governments controlled by ex-colonial powers. Sembene's courageous and open indictment of profiteering African businessmen and politicians is the backdrop for a moral tale of greed, betrayal, and punishment. I found the storyline gripping, never boring, and I even felt compassion for the victim of the xala despite his obvious shortcomings and former cockiness. While the cautionary tale is didactic in the style of fables and traditional African tales, the viewer apprehends the complexities of life in a climate of pervasive corruption. The characters make their way through a melting pot of African traditions, magic realism, animism, and Islam - all peppered with powerful vestiges from Africa's colonial heritage. Each character tries to survive and thrive in his or her own unique way. Xala provides the viewer with a multitude of perspectives, simultaneously condemning those who sell Africa to her highest bidders, while promoting forgiveness and redemption.
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