Bamako Abderrahmane Sissako

The novel approach of this international smack down doesn’t always translate into cinema gold, but you have to admit its impassioned cri de coeur resonates far beyond the limits of its concept. That concept is to hold a mock trial of the West in a Malian backyard, where a bar singer and her unemployed husband are used as counterpoints to demonstrate the concrete results of the abstract economics used by the World Bank and the IMF. The counsel for the defence naturally claims that nothing is amiss, but the prosecution will have none of it, and the latter’s witness offers passionate and articulate denunciations of the West, its figurative strip-mining of the continent and its privatisation of services that are now out of most peoples’ reach. Though this doesn’t add up to much more than people talking, there are detours: a cameraman who shoots public ceremonies and claims of his funeral work, "death is better than life.” That could be the slogan for the rest of the film, which establishes in no uncertain terms that Europe and North America have doomed Africa to such sentiments by denying the basic necessities that could make life worth living. Alas, a subtitle translation is left out of a couple of sung passages, one of which seemed like a crucial rebuke to the defence and its excuses; still, the film is a necessary slap in the face and corrective to the official story that Africa has only itself to blame for its woes. And if there are longueurs to impede the aesthetic flow, there are also dramatic (and theoretical) high points that give the thesis urgency and potency. (Archipel 33)