i’m pretty sure this is the first african film i’ve seen in its entirety. on the one hand that’s understandable, and on the other hand that’s sorta pathetic.
the cover says it’s supposed to be a comedy, but i didn’t find much of it to be very funny. perhaps some of the humor was lost in translation, or maybe it’s just a difference of opinion. it’s more a scathing and sarcastic commentary on senegalese culture than it is a comedy, at least by american standards. in a way it might be construed as a comedy of errors, but the errors are those of the government and the leeches in society who take advantage of decent people. the plot follows a man whose nephew sends him a money order. throughout the entire film the man seeks to cash the money order, but in order to do that he needs to have ID, in order to acquire an ID he needs to have a birth certificate, in order to acquire a birth certificate he needs…you get the point. along the way people take advantage of his ignorance and generosity. sembene paints a portrait of a senegal supported by a vast network of those with money and those without. those without money are constantly borrowing from those with money; and those with money are constantly taking advantage of those without it. by the end our protagonist is completely exhausted and bled dry by the leeches of society (including his family). that said, the ending is uplifting and somewhat inspirational.
it reminded me of the third-world cinema of ray, specifically his apu trilogy. you get a great idea of a day in the life of a senegalese citizen. you see the pre and post-colonial worlds colliding. it’s not as touching or well done as the apu trilogy, but it’s a valuable film nonetheless.