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March 18, 2012

Bamako (2006)
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Actors: Aïssa Maïga, Tiécouna Traoré, Maimouna Hélène Diarra


Synopsis: The citizens of Africa conduct a mock prosecution of the World Bank and IMF in Bamako, Mali.

Review: There’s no doubting the integrity and topicality of Bamako’s subject matter: a critique of the World Bank and IMF, and, by extension, all western governmental policy. Also implicated is the wider fact of the developed world’s de facto economic suppression and sustained impoverisation of Africa. Where Abderrahmane Sissako really justifies Bamako’s existence, and thrillingly so, is in providing a necessarily African voice – quite literally – in the debate.

The concept itself is ingenious – staging a mock prosecution of the aforementioned western monetary institutions – and creating the courtroom in the courtyard of a regular Malian family in Bamako, rather than in some grandiose legal building. Around this framework, Sissako cleverly meshes the micro with the macro, with lawyers arguing the grander points about the African ‘problem’, versus mini-dramatisations of the various African citizens who either live in Bamako or come to Bamako to testify against the World Bank.

Sissako even further removes the film from accusations of simple agitptop by having integrating surreal touches such as a Danny Glover-starring African cowboy trailer or a comedically-backward African TV broadcast. In short, Sissako’s film works because it offers a corrective to the – sometimes unintentionally – condescending western stereotype of Africa as an afflicted and pitiable continent. The Africans asked to speak at the court hearing, either in their eloquence or quiet dignity, offer hope that an Africa freed from the chains of its massive debt crisis (some African countries pay back over 50% of their GDP) can begin to break the shackles of its seemingly endless cycle of poverty, famine and corruption, for a brighter future. (March 2012)

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