- Excellent 4/7/2009 12:00:00 AM by raskimono
This is partially a response to the above review by Irene Schneider. Mandabi is the second feature length film of Senegalese born director Usmán Sembén. he was also a well respected writer and The Money Order (English translation) is an adaptation of his own book. Capturing the corruption eminent in post colonial Africa by following a proud man who tries to cash a money order sent by a relative working in Paris, France. This newly arrived money turns all those around him, including the lead character into to be kindly a pack of wolves, determined to pick him for all he's got. Except he hasn't even cashed the money order yet. Slow and observant with a charming rhythmic score that engulfs the viewer, it watches a society slowly eating itself because of poverty and selfishness and no one is spared in Usmán Sembén's lament against greed and avarice. A beautifully recapped montage saves what might have been a slightly didactic if not hopeful ending. To note, as opposed to the above comment, there is nothing simple about the movie and it is as prescient today as back then and is no history lesson. To be enjoyed by all those who enjoy the movies of Satyajit Ray because the film making style is very similar to his. ** Use of Usmán Sembén as opposed to Ousmane Sembene is because the director is credited as that in the movie and it seems to be the correct rendition of the name.
- Qualified praise. 2/9/2000 12:00:00 AM by meninas
The pace of this movie is as languid as life in a sun-baked country. But stick with it. Even when the plot is predictable, the action is not, nor are the characters. Believing he has come into money from a successful relative in Paris (who is shown sweeping streets, far from wealthy), a proud middle-aged Dakar man with two strong-willed wives and several children tries to cash the money order (mandabi). He encounters catch-22 bureaucracies, his friends all become borrowers, his creditors turn ugly, and con men latch on to him, but Ousmane Sembene (the director, and one of Senegal's most important writers) leavens the frustration with humour, and even manages to sustain a certain amount of suspense-- not easy in a film as languid as this one. Scenes of city life in Dakar's warren like streets are realistically and straightforwardly presented, and the story, though very simple, stays with you long after the movie's over. A must if you're interested in African film, if only for historical interest.
- An African Mix of Bicycle Thieves and The Trial 6/19/2016 12:00:00 AM by bkrauser-81-311064
In order to truly appreciate Mandabi one must first know a little something about director Ousmane Sembene. One can trace the burgeoning success of West African cinema to Sembene's body of work which aimed to tell stories that were uniquely African. Without the international success of Black Girl (1966) and Xala (1975), the work of fellow Senegalese Djibril Diop Mambety and Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cisse may have never been discovered. At first, Sembene was also an accomplished anti-colonialist writer who's concern for social change led to a directing career to reach a wider audience.
Mandabi is partially based on Sembene's short story "The Money- Order". In it an illiterate, middle-aged man attempts to cash a money-order sent by a family member who has emigrated to Paris. Due to the newly independent country's rapidly spreading corruption, a burgeoning criminal underclass, and the general incompetence of government officials, Ibrahim (Gueye) struggles to accomplish what is otherwise a simple goal.
Senegal circa 1968 was administered by the largely socialist government of President Leopold Senghor. Senghor favored close ties with former colonialist France which ran counter to long brewing resentment and popular thought among other African nations who viewed France, Britain, Belgium et al. as oppressors. Underneath the film's strong sense of irony and absurdity you get the sense that the bureaucracy (and thus the government) that controls the fate of Ibrahim is completely foreign and unnaturally weak. It operates as a tool of submission and dehumanization to someone like Ibrahim who is un-wanting or unwilling to "modernize" yet for his nephew (Diouf) and the local shop keeper (Ture) whom represent a new generation easily manages to circumvent the bureaucracy in favor of a black market. This theme is further mirrored in Sembene's satirical zenith of El Hadji (Thierno Leye) impotence in the film Xala.
Yet in Mandabi, the satire, while more subdued than Xala feels more damning towards colonization as a political system and the authoritarianism of post-colonial African society. Ibrahim hopes familial ties and a few honest favors will get him what he wants but due in-part by traditionalism mesh-mashing with multiple systems of oppression, Ibrahim can only count on his first wife's (N'Diaye) constant berating.
Ibrahim's constant struggle mirrors that of the protagonist in Bicycle Thieves (1948). Yet while that film's neo-realist flair was partially the result of war, Mandabi endeavors amid a maze of post- colonial chaos with the new generation jockeying for absolute power. Dark, frustrating and heartbreaking Mandabi showcases a story and by extension a country where authority is an unnatural corruption and only rascals win.