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May 3, 2006

Delwende, 2005

delwende.gifS. Pierre Yameogo returns from last year's NYAFF mid-career retrospective with perhaps his most mature, immediately relevant, and socially confrontational film to date, a provocative moral tale on the barbaric (and largely misogynistic) tribal custom of scapegoating through witch denunciation and exile - often of the most weak, disempowered, and vulnerable members of the village - in times of hardship, natural disasters, death, and unexplained crisis. The film opens to a seemingly idyllic rural village in Burkina Faso where the elders' divine gratitude for the year's bountiful harvest is tempered by the somber image of freshly buried graves in the village graveyard, and a tribal elder gathering to discuss conducting a witch hunt in an attempt to find and eradicate the source of the epidemic that causes victims, mostly children, to suffer and inevitably die in contorted agony. Ostensibly motivated by his desire to save his daughter Pougbila (Claire Ilboudo) from the seeming scourge of the fatal malady (but perhaps, more likely, to conceal a grave transgression or to divest himself of all parental responsibilities to provide for her), a village elder named Diahrra (Célestin Zongo) dispatches an emissary to bring Pougbila's promised husband for a meeting in an attempt to expedite their marriage so that she may leave the village. But Diahrra's strong willed wife Napoko (Blandine Yaméogo) disagrees with such a rash and selfish decision, arguing that Pougbila's fragile emotional state after an unspoken trauma leaves her emotional unprepared for the life-altering responsibilities of an arranged marriage. In openly challenging Diahrra's patriarchal authority over Pougbila's future, Napoko leaves herself vulnerable to denunciation when a holy man is summoned to root out the evildoer from the village. In its fabular, affirming, and profoundly humanist approach towards critical self-examination, Delwende favorably evokes the films of Ousmane Sembene and Idrissa Ouedraogo in its incisive social expositions of outmoded customs that contribute to the cultural stagnation of post-colonial Africa.

Posted by acquarello on May 03, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, New York African Film Festival


What I like about the film is the way that Yaméogo both uses and subverts the conventions of the Burkinabé "village film", to toy with our expectations before delivering a stinging indictment. It also reminded of the Malian film Finzan in its emphasis on the fact that for women in particular the village is rarely an idyll.

Posted by: Gareth on Mar 25, 2007 8:32 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the recommendation of Finzan, Gareth. I haven't seen it, but just the issues that you've mentioned in your review does sound as though it's in line with the social issues that films like Delwende and Moolaadé expose.

Posted by: acquarello on Mar 25, 2007 10:40 PM | Permalink

...and which you articulate so masterfully, Acquarello, when you synopsize the film's "incisive social expositions of outmoded customs that contribute to the cultural stagnation of post-colonial Africa." I swear I am in constant awe at what Lawerence Durrell would term your "raids upon the inarticulate." Do you teach? I would love to take a course in film appreciation with you. Though, of course, that's the thrust of Strictly Flm School, eh?

I just now realized we are linked by overaching intent; yours with Strictly Film School, me with The Evening Class. Heh. I do hope to someday meet you to honor you in person and put an apple on your desk.

Posted by: Maya on Oct 15, 2007 10:54 AM | Permalink

Oh, yeah! Good one! I'm sure there's something about a seeker's spirit somewhere in there too.

Hmm...Didn't you get a MacBook recently too? Now there's an Apple I wouldn't object to (25 years mac user here). ;)

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 15, 2007 6:51 PM | Permalink

Man, now there's a whole new twist on the apple meme. Yeah, I got a MacBook. Still getting used to it. Do you write notes right after you see a film or do you let it stew around before writing? I seem to recall you saying that you use the festival diary for initial entries but that you then burnish your thoughts for the main site? The MacBook was the only way I could manage a dispatch to Greencine from TIFF. It would have been impossible otherwise. I'm still having to learn how to watch movies and write about them at the same time.

Posted by: Maya on Oct 15, 2007 9:35 PM | Permalink

Yup, that's pretty much how I work. I pretty much just take notes on images and themes on a (spiral-bound) notebook after the screening, especially when I'll be seeing several films in succession, then let it stew for two or three days before I buckle down and actually write something. I do take my MacBook Pro with me when I travel, but not to the screenings, just way too cumbersome. I was kinda hoping that the iPod Touch would have some kind of sticky or textedit or widget installation capability to it so I wouldn't necessarily have to lug a laptop all the time either, since my trips tend to be just extended weekends, and I don't usually start writing until I'm on the train heading back.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 16, 2007 10:55 AM | Permalink

Just out of curiousity, do you jot down notes during a screening? I tried that for a while but found it to be too distracting of the filmviewing experience. Like yourself, I tend to jot things down after I've seen something. And like yourself, I'm finding the laptop too cumbersome to lug around, though it's incredibly helpful once I get back to the hotel.

Posted by: Maya on Oct 16, 2007 12:05 PM | Permalink

Yeah, very rarely, maybe just twice in the last two years that I could remember, and for the same reasons. It breaks the "immersion" of the experience. I remember that one was a longish quote or intertitle that repeated, so I figured it was significant, the other was a person's name. I scribbled on the back of a program without looking down and when I got home, I couldn't read what I wrote. I normally write in an engineer's block caps style, so my script is pretty indecipherable. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 16, 2007 1:24 PM | Permalink

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