Escaping the Community

Banel & Adama

Director: Ramata-Toulaye Sy

Cast: Khady Mane, Mamadou Diallo, Binta Racine, Moussa Sow

Running time: 87 minutes

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Festival: Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)

Language: Sengalese with English Subtitles

After having its world premiere at the 76th Festival de Cannes, Sengalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy ‘s thought provoking film Banel and Adama was chosen as the closing film of the 44th Durban International Film Festival in July 2023.

Banel and Adama won the Bright Horizon award at the Melbourne International Film Festival and is an incisive look at woman Adama who is supposedly trapped in a patriarchal and remote village in Northern Senegal.

Adama’s future is mapped out for her by the village elders as she is to wed the younger brother of her late husband as per tradition.  However, Banel played by Mamadou Diallo is not happy with her projected future and struggles to adapt to an already mapped out life. As a young woman she struggles to take heed of advice by the village elders even when the village itself is ravaged by drought and lack of rain.

Banel is to inherit the title as village elder and along with all the men, he has to tend to the dwindling livestock in ever worsening conditions with inadequate agricultural means and a meagre population which is teetering on the edge of hunger.

Unlike Western cinema which always focuses on the interplay between hero and villain, director Rama-Toulaye Sy paints a vivid cinematic portrait of a community struggling to survive against nature and of a woman fighting to establish her own self-identity in an environment which is prescribed by traditional Muslim values and a superstition of all things individual.

Banel and Adama is a fascinatingly authentic African film, a lens which is rare for cinema going audiences from a country which has virtually no visibility on the world stage.

Interwoven with some beautifully stark images, Banel and Adama is a symbolic tale of how an individual woman fights against the expectations of her community and a man who has to bow down to local pressure to take up the position of village leader as inherited according to dictated custom.

Debut director Rama-Toulaye Sy imbues her first film with all the traits of traditional African cinema, minimal sets and a stark production design, while skilfully keeping her narrative community driven as her two main characters battle to accept the fates that have been chosen for them by the village elders.

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