FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Semb?ne’s Faat Kin

Summer’s the perfect season for Ousmane Sembène’s Faat Kiné, just released in DVD by California Newsreel. It’s an exuberant movie, full of laughter, wit and sexual high-jinks, by the “father of African cinema.” Faat Kiné is Sembène’s next-to-last film (his career began in 1963 and ended in 2004), 3 years before his death.

Set in an idealized Dakar where at first only the cripples and beggars seem real, Faat Kiné is, at every level, a celebration of women. And what glorious women they are. Even the lowliest of them, with a plastic bucket of food on her head, stride regally through the market place; while the more prosperous, with her elaborate turban and luxuriant gown, looks as though she belongs at the court of an 18th century monarch.

The title character (Venus Seye) runs a Total petrol station in the middle of the city. A voluptuous, fun-loving woman in her early 40s, Kiné is the proud mother of a daughter and son who’ve just gotten their baccalaureate degrees. Both children are illegitimate; their histories are given swiftly in a couple of fluent flashbacks. It’s a delight to watch Kiné at work. She measures the density of a diesel fuel delivery with the concentration of Madame Curie and from behind her desk outwits a snobby woman with counterfeit bills with the breathtaking savvy of a character played by Joan Blondell in the 1930s. Her back-talk shows she’s a woman not to be messed with.

Kiné comes home full of joy and pride. Both daughter and son have passed their baccalaureate exams, her son with highest honor. Happy but exhausted, she sits down in a rocking chair opposite her mother (Mame Ndoumbé Diop). This formidable woman looks like a figure carved of wood and moves with the deliberation of an idol in a procession. Kiné supports her mother and stepfather  in a spacious suburban house, decorated with oil paintings of Julius Nyere, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and other heroes of négritude. In front of a portrait of Nelson Mandela, Mammy reminds Kiné how she saved her and her daughter’s lives. “When you got pregnant out of wedlock the first time… Your father was so furious, he wanted burn you alive.” Mammy stood between her and her father (the wonderful Samba Wane, seen only in two flashbacks) and she goes on to praise Kiné not only for giving her children everything she didn’t have as a child, but also for giving her mother a home and finding a husband for her. “Now, I am your daughter,” she says, “I praise you.”

Sembène’s paean to the women of Senegal, its “pillars of society,” culminates in the long final scene. Kiné gives a bash for her children at which, uninvited, their fathers turn up. The event feels like the end of a novel by Victor Hugo where the virtuous are triumphant and the wicked are defeated, but the director foregoes none of his usual irony. There’s a suggestion of hope in Djip (Ndiagne Dia), Kiné’s 17 year-old son, toasted enthusiastically as a ”future president of Senegal,” except that in his good looks and impeccable French, he reminds us of  Sidiki Bakaba who played the tragic hero in Sembène’s 1987 Camp de Thiaroye. Sembène’s view of the future of Senegal is anything but rosy.

Fortunately – happy enders rejoice! – for Kiné herself the movie wraps, deservedly, in bliss.

Details:
1 Disc; California Newsreel price $24.95
Senegal; 2001; in French and Wolof with English subtitles; 121 minutes; Color

BEN SONNENBERG is the author of Lost Property: Memoirs & Confessions of a Bad Boy, and the founder/editor of the original Grand Street. He can be reached at harapos@panix.com.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

BEN SONNENBERG is the author of Lost Property: Memoirs & Confessions of a Bad Boy, and the founder/editor of Grand Street. He can be reached at harapos@panix.com.

Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail