Quartier Mozart (1992, Jean-Pierre Bekolo)

Immediately reminiscent of early Spike Lee movies in style. Weirdo comedy from Cameroon. I didn’t follow all of the plot threads, but would have followed even less had we not read up on the movie ahead of time. The characters all helpfully introduce themselves to camera at the beginning, but there may be subtitle problems (“Call me GOOD FOR IS DEAD”). Somewhere in this jazzy intro, a young woman called Queen of the Hood apparently expresses a desire to experience life as a man, and so Mama Thecla transforms her into “Myguy” in a scene reminiscent of The Terminator (Myguy appears naked inside a fog-blanketed truck).

Myguy starts dating Saturday, the sheltered daughter of hard-ass local boss Mad Dog. I lost track of a couple other characters, but Mama Thecla had also transformed herself into Panka, a man who can cause other men’s penises to disappear with a handshake. She does this apparently for the hell of it, and it’s treated more as a hilarious prank than a source of terror in the community. After Saturday falls in love with Myguy, he meets Panka again and they transform back into their female selves. No word on where this leaves poor Saturday or the local men’s disappeared genitals. Audio commentary on the DVD would definitely be interesting, but alas, it’s in French.

Acquarello:

[Panka] becomes My Guy’s guide and protector to the social and sexual politics of the quarter: a self-made man who reinforces his stature by taking on a second wife, the subtle inculcation of Christianity into daily life, even as the people continue to practice traditional – often conflicting – customs, the marginalized role and maltreatment of women that sharply contrasts with their real roles as family nurturers and community builders (and, as in the case of Mad Dog’s exiled first wife, literally feeds society when she sets up a vending stand near a high traffic street). As in [Spike] Lee’s films, Bekolo uses archetypal characters, informal fourth wall address, jaunty camerawork, and integral incorporation of pop music to illustrate the paradox of social and gender inequity and anachronism of contemporary life in post-colonial Cameroon.

Katy liked that it referenced American culture (Denzel Washington, Michael Jackson’s African influences) and America’s view of Africa (starving children).

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