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With: Aïssa Maïga, Tiécoura Traoré, Maimouna Hélène Diarra, Balla Habib Dembélé, Djénéba Koné, Hamadoun Kassogué, William Bourdon, Mamadou Konaté, Magma Gabriel, Konaté, Aminata Traoré, Danny Glover, Elia Suleiman, Dramane Sissako, Jean-Henri Roger, Zeka Laplaine
Written by: Abderrahmane Sissako
Directed by: Abderrahmane Sissako
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French, Bambara with English subtitles
Running Time: 115
Date: 05/21/2006

Bamako (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Trial Drivers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Abderrahmane Sissako's fascinating new film weaves fiction and non-fiction elements, putting the World Bank on trial for crimes against Africa. The trial takes place in an open courtyard and citizens of Bamako, a city in Mali, are invited (although some are turned away at the door). In and around the trial, locals listen on a PA system and trade their own thoughts. Little dramas erupt, such as the one between bar singer Melé (Aïssa Maïga) -- who weeps through her own songs -- and her out-of-work husband Chaka (Tiécoura Traoré). Sissako, who also directed the oblique, frustrating Waiting for Happiness, keeps this relationship mostly unspoken. But when it comes to other ideas, such as a stolen gun or a sick, bed-ridden man, Sissako can't help but fall into obvious melodrama. The trial itself, which is shot mostly "live" with a multi-camera setup, is fiery and multi-layered. Locals complain about how Africa must struggle to pay back her massive national debt, leaving little or no money for her people. Most social services have been nationalized, which results in a lack of care or sympathy. Representatives from the World Bank claim that they're just doing business and that they do not intend any malice. The oddest sequence comes when locals watch a Western on TV, an odd little movie-within-a-movie entitled Death in Timbuktu and starring Danny Glover, filmmaker Elia Suleiman and other, international actors. (Sissako claims he's trying to show that the West is not entirely to blame for Africa's plight.) Overall, Bamako is a passionate plea, filled with interesting ideas and wrapped up in an uneven presentation.

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