Finye/The Wind (1982, Souleymane Cissé)

Batrou is a cute student, the privileged daughter of a hardassed military governor/colonel with three wives. His youngest wife is strong-willed and troublesome (aren’t third wives always?) and close to the daughter’s age. The daughter is in love with Ba, and they hangs out with friend Seydou, studying for exams.

I’m not sure exactly what happens with the third-wife plot, or why the boys’ failing their exams helps to launch a student protest against the government (maybe the protest was already in place, and the boys just joined it), but the result is that Ba and Seydou are arrested and sent to hard training camp, where Seydou dies from the stress, and even Batrou is arrested by the unapologetic colonel.

Suddenly we’re back in familiar Cissé territory when Ba’s grandfather hears of his arrest, puts on his tribal garb and heads for the trees to make sacrifices and wish for supernatural assistance in overthrowing the colonel’s evil plans. Walks out of the trees into the colonel’s backyard and threatens him – colonel reponds as we’d expect by shooting grandpa in the back, but the bullets have no effect.

Bulletproof robes are all the ghosts of grandpa’s ancestors can provide, though – when he gets home he finds the house has been burned down and Ba is rumored to have been killed, so grandpa burns his ceremonial outfit and joins the people’s march against tyranny, which shakes up the government enough that the colonel is ordered to release Ba, who’s now free to run off with the colonel’s daughter.

This preceded Yeelen, which featured two of the same actors (the grandfather and the colonel). It lacks much of Yeelen’s striking imagery and unhinged craziness but it’s still a good movie (I liked it more than Xala) and oughtta be more readily available than it is.

N.F. Ukadike: “Ironically, Finye was partly financed by the military government of Mali. Tolerance and maturity prevailing, the government demonstrated that it is capable of listening to constructive criticism.” Kino’s promo copy plays up the romance and compares to Romeo & Juliet, says it “casts a critical eye on both the ancient and modern values.”

M. Dembrow: “In reality, young Malians would have to wait ten years after the making of Finyé for the military regime of Moussa Traoré to crumble. But with this film—and with Yeelen as well—Souleymane Cissé gave them powerful images of hope and resolve.”