Both this and Genesis required all my concentration to figure out who was who and what was happening.

A girl and her dad:
image

Magic man Mambi has a daughter Jangine, and he promises her in marriage to the son of powerful leader Guimba. Twenty years later she is beautiful and Guimba’s son is a perverted dwarf, so she wants to marry a hot dude instead. So Guimba, a scary, easily-angered man who hides from sunlight, drives her father and all hot dudes from the village and demands she marry the son as planned.

image

But the son doesn’t want to marry Jangine – he prefers his women more full-figured. This is fine with Guimba – he’ll let the son marry his large mistress while Guimba takes the girl for himself. The father sends some magic boogedy into town, Guimba kills his son then exposes himself to capture and ridicule by the townsfolk, and presumably kills himself.

image

Jangine would star in Moolaade (Katy recognized her; I didn’t). The griot appeared in Bamako, and the daughter’s father has been in everything: Finye, Yeelen and Genesis among them. We liked it alright – Katy says it was more confusing than Genesis, because at least she’d read the book of Genesis and seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat but with Guimba we had no frame of reference.

image

R. Ames in his African Filmmaking book:

Sissoko turned away from the basically realistic approach of his first two features with Guimba The Tyrant. Already, in Finzan, Sissoko had drawn on the popular Malian koteba theatrical tradition in the portrayal of Bala, the village idiot. Now in Guimba he moved further in the use of African oral traditions to shape the whole film – creating a narrative full of abrupt shifts in time and place and unexpected digressions – the shift in style typified by the appearance of a griot at the beginning and end of the film, introducing the tale and commenting on its aftermath. The inset story, which focuses squarely on tyrnny and the need to oppose it, has obvious contemporary relevance, as many commentators have noticed, to the overthrow of the Malian dictator Moussa Toure in 1991. But the film is shaped as a fable mixing elements of farce and the supernatural and with constant shifts in mood and direction. It chronicles the rule of Guimba and his dwarf son Jangine, putting emphasis on their brutality, on the constant praise-singing of their eloquent but two-faced griot, and also on their ludicrous sexual desires: Jangine rejects the beautiful Kani, to whom he was betrothed as a child, in favor of her more than amply proportioned mother, Meya. The exile of Meya’s upright husband by Guimba, who covets Kani for himself, trigers the ruler’s eventual downfall, chronicled in an often confusing sequence of confrontations played out in splendidly evocative costumes within the visually impressive setting of Djenne, one of Mali’s ancient Saharan trading centres. As Sissoko has rightly said, Guimba “opens the door to audiences for understanding our history through our cinema. Obviously, some aspects will seem odd or not readily comprehensible, but the door to dreaming and discovery is open to those who wish to enter it.”

image

Jacob has many kids. His favorite son was killed by animals (bible scholar Katy tells me he’s not really dead) so Jacob is in mourning. King Hamor’s son wants to marry Jacob’s daughter Dina (after kidnapping/raping her), but Jacob’s not responding to requests nor is he acknowledging any of his children. Meanwhile, his brother Esau is lurking with his warriors. Jacob’s sons kill all of Hamor’s people (including Dina’s would-be husband) and there’s gonna be a three-way showdown, but Jacob comes to his senses in time and his clan goes off to Egypt where they’ll presumably find his not-dead son.

image

I also dug the flashback stories in the middle… and Jacob’s climactic nighttime battle with God. There’s lots more that I did not get. Found the movie hard to follow, but I think a passing familiarity with the bible (maybe the book of genesis) would’ve helped some. Was nice to watch anyway, with all the great desert locations, color-coordinated outfits and completely decent actors, a welcome change from the film-fest screeners that have become my constant sorrow.

Albino musician Salif Keita, whose music I’m not all that into:
image

Of the lead actors, Salif Keita (Esau) is better known as a musician (he composed for Yeelen), Sotigui Kouyat√© (Jacob) and Fatoumata Diawara (Dina) costarred in Sia, the Dream of the Python a couple years later in Burkina Faso, and Balla Moussa Keita (Hamor) appeared in Sissoko’s Guimba the Tyrant and a bunch of Souleymane Ciss√© films including Yeelen. Hamor is also the guy I would least recognize if I saw him again, unless he was wearing that coiled-white-tube getup.

Jacob:
image

Helpful bit from the distributor: “Based on the book of Genesis, chapters 33-37, the film follows the bitter rivalry between brothers Jacob and Esau and the resulting cycle of violence, with Sissoko mixing relevant allusions to African history and culture into the Biblical tale.”

NY Times called it confused and rambling. “Complicating matters is the involvement of Hamor, the leader of the Canaanities, when his son Sichem abducts Jacob’s daughter Dina (Fatoumata Diawara) and rapes her, then falls in love with her. In the most disturbing scene, a temporary peace is negotiated when Hamor accedes to Jacob’s demand that the Canaanite men be circumcised, and the obedient Canaanites glumly line up to be circumcised by a knife-wielding blacksmith.”

image

Sissoko: “In the Bible, there is a fraternity which does not stop conflict: we love one another and we fight. This is more and more apparent in the world today, in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and in northern Mali. The same enmities existed amongst the patriarchs of the three great monotheistic religions. … In our farming and herding societies, people reinforce the rivalry between the nomads and farmers: the situation is analogous with that at the beginning of time.”

Movie was written by a French theologist. Sissoko only made one film after this then became Mali’s minister of culture. According to wikipedia, he’s off the government payroll as of late 2007, so maybe there’ll be another film soon.

Katy, here’s the link I told you about.