What to do while watching:
What to eat while watching:
The Mrs. picked this one out. She was attracted by the exotic costumes and settings depicted on the cover, I think; and, indeed, as a visual artist, she was immediately won over by the colorful clothes and the murals upon the walls and doorways of Mali. The homes are constructed of earth and painted with iconography and patterning. Like my wife, I was fascinated, but I have some reservations around her new plan to paint the back of our house with a foundation of adobe red adorned in earth-brown and tree-green turtle and vulture icons and "other such frippery."
I did sincerely like taking this living-room tour of Africa, seeing how different life is there. Complications in my Western, first-world life are non-extant there. They don't use computers to save and to waste their time. They don't buy cars and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic and noxious exhaust. Nor do they seem to have as much quality and variety of dining choices.
On the other hand, they seem to be much more in tune with the supernal and supernatural. Also, they are more driven by the sexual dynamics between men and women. It's all about sex, sex and power, and a fundamental understanding of what is right and wrong.
Guimba the Tyrant, central character of this film, rules his small village by keeping his subjects broke in spirit and possession. He whips them, extorts from them, and when he needs to, casts enchantments and harmful spells upon them. Guimba is grooming his dwarf son to take over the family business, but though Guimba tries to teach his son ruthlessness, the next generation is mainly interested in bedding large-rumped women. Which is too bad for dad because his tyranny is starting to crest as we enter the story. The oppressed locals are getting weary of his ways and the wayward son isn't helping his dad hold the reigns of the reign.
Guimba's son has had his marriage arranged to the village queen, let's call her Kani. But she refuses to marry the son because he is short on stature and character; and that's fine with him because she is short on buttock mass. He's much more interested in Kani's steatopygous mother. But Kani is such a hottie that Guimba decides to take her as an additional wife for his own pleasure. This is clearly the wrong thing to do, but Guimba is entrenched in his Machiavellian ruling style and (the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree) is driven by his lusts.
Kani resists by marrying two strapping men whom she sends to show Guimba a thing or two. With a heart-wrenching integrity, the two march on Guimba's palace only to be shot by the dwarf son. Unlike the jaded killings in many US films, these are truly shocking. The murdered seem astonished that guns could kill them. They'd believed themselves immune, shielded by their righteousness. Such innocence is very different from the Western conception of violence, and their deaths' tragedy falls squarely back upon Kani.
More people are exiled and killed. Guimba decrees that all suitors to Kani will be castrated. But Kani's father, in exile, finds a hunter named Silimon who is also a magic user and a warrior. Kani promises to marry him if he will defeat Guimba. This far into the film, we are treated to an interesting special effect: Guimba casts an eclipse over the sun, through which are shot lightning bolts, which look as though they've been scratched directly onto the acetate.
The filmmakers are not from the US, which enables the view of Mali's culture to be uncompromised. This isn't Spielberg's film crew setting up in a remote location, a la State and Main, grinding Sumatra, complaining about the heat, razing an oasis for a better camera shot of the desert. This natural match between message and medium is very refreshing. I mean, sometimes I wonder what is more distractingly ironic than a film set in the Middle Ages and shot with the very latest cinematic technology.
Much of the subtlety in this story, I think, got lost in the translation to me. There is probably more to it than your standard revenge story. For instance there are two griots, or bards, that add to the layers between tale and audience. The first griot appears at the beginning, walking along a river (like Ali Farka Toure) singing this sad tale to the audience. Within his tale, a second bard accompanies Guimba to sing his praises and to provide some framing of the story and some comic relief. I feel some understanding of the griot's role is lost to me, as one example.
There is also the interposition of the subtitles to contend with, and they seem to do a haphazard job of expressing in written English what is going on in the movie. Some long sequences pass with lots being said and no translation appearing on the screen.
But I think it's good to be exposed to different cultures. If you wish to follow my example, don't try too hard to get it. Just let the sincerity of the characters and the richness of the visuals permeate you. You will notice huge difference in lifestyle, but fundamental similarities of human soul.
A Note on Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered
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