Genesis (1999, Cheick Oumar Sissoko)

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.


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:

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.


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.”


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.