Bamako doesn’t correct the injustices committed by The Constant Gardener, reversing them by flaunting an all-brain-no-heart attitude. Writer-director Abderrahmane Sissako pays more than lip service to the precarious relationship between Africa and the West, but this heavy-handed harangue against Bush-era corporate interests (IMF, World Bank, and G8 are among the villains name-checked), though sincere and free of the romance-novel clichés that made Fernando Meirelles’s picturesque slumming through Nairobi so appealing to Western audiences, is an unfortunate slog, dubiously pitched and aestheticized. After the resonant and lyrical experience of Sissako’s criminally under-seen and allegory-rich Waiting for Happiness, which could have been an alternate title for the allegory-parched Bamako, this new film represents a colossal downgrade. Much of the action here revolves around a trial that pits the people of Bamako—a town in Mali’s Hamdallaye neighborhood—against lawyers from the monopolizing World Bank. Many witnesses will give angry speeches in the courtyard where the trial is conducted, and they will do so with such conviction that some might confuse these scenes for legit documentary footage, even though Sissako’s scarcely-verité direction suggests there’s something tragically amiss with the film. (A western spoof starring Danny Glover and Elia Suleiman that plays on Bamako’s local television should have been the story’s comic relief, but the aesthetic of these scenes is homogenized with the rest of the film—standing out only as a lazy diversion that pushes an even lazier commentary about Africa’s own complicity in its problems.) Around the story’s trial of interminable words, during which the people of the West are admonished for not listening to the problems of Africa’s people, we catch glimpses of everyday life in Bamako. Everything is light in context and insufficiently dramatized, conveyed so aloofly and dispassionately that Sissako may even have a hard time hooking the Lincoln Center crowd.
- New Yorker Films
- 115 min
- Abderrahmane Sissako
- Abderrahmane Sissako
- Aïssa Maïga, Tiécoura Traoré, Hélène Diarra, Habib Dembélé, Djénéba Koné, Hamadoun Kassogué, Magma Gabriel Konaté, Mamadou Konaté, William Bourdon, Danny Glover, Elia Suleiman
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