Saturday, February 11, 2006

2006 PFA African Film Festival: Delwende

Bay Area film aficionados are especially fortunate that the Pacific Film Archives are following through this year with the 2nd African Film Festival, garnered from the touring program of New York's African Film Festival along with favorites from other international festivals. Last year's program opened my eyes to the treasures coming from this part of the world, and the title of this blog is my homage to the "father" of African film, Ousmane Sembene, who has stated that the purpose of African film is not exclusively entertainment but education. Going to movies is like going to an evening class.

With so many festivals competing for attention in the Bay Area, I rarely am able to devote myself fully to any one program. But here is what I've seen so far at PFA's festival this year:

Delwende: Lève-toi et Marche is a 2005 multinational production (Burkina Faso / France / Switzerland) written and directed by S. Pierre Yameogo and aligns with the school of African cinema that believes women are the future of mankind, following closely behind last year's acclaimed Moolaade and even "unspooling" (as Variety puts it) in the same Un Certain Regard—Prix de l'espoir festival slot. Following up on his earlier documentary on the "witch shelter" phenomenon of Burkina Faso, Yameogo's feature is named after one such "shelter." Its French subtitle ("Get Up and Walk") refers to both the exiled sojourn of a woman accused of being a soul eater witch and the emancipatory search of her young daughter. Some of the film's most compelling scenes are the daughter's walks out of the villages, into the city, and into the "witch shelters". Delwende portrays the sad, nefarious practice of scapegoating and how traditions are manipulated to unjust, sexist ends. The ritual of protection depicted in Moolaade that captivated audiences last year gives way this year to the ritual of the siongho, wherein two virgin males carry what is either a bundled corpse or some kind of wooden "divining rod" simulated to look like a bundled corpse. This is carried around a village in search of a "soul eater" or a "witch" to blame for, what in the film, is a meningitis outbreak. The anthropologist in me is fascinated by such cultural rituals.

For your persual: Jay Weissberg's review for

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