May 1, 2006
Quartier Mozart, 1992
Jean-Pierre Bekolo channels the manic freeverse, urban culture, and confrontational humor of Spike Lee's early films in Quartier Mozart, an eccentric, socially incisive fable on a schoolgirl known as Queen of the 'Hood who, with the aid of the village witch, Maman Thekla, asks to experience life as a man in Yaounde's working class district of Mozart. Metamorphosed into a handsome, young man named My Guy, the metaphoric New Man emerges from a desolate field where he immediately catches the eye of Saturday, the virginal daughter of the police chief, Mad Dog. Accompanied by Maman Thekla, now transformed into a modern day folkloric comic figure, Panka who emasculates those who unwittingly shake his hand, he becomes My Guy's guide and protector to the social and sexual politics of the quarter: a self-made man who reinforces his stature by taking on a second wife, the subtle inculcation of Christianity into daily life, even as the people continue to practice traditional - often conflicting - customs, the marginalized role and maltreatment of women that sharply contrasts with their real roles as family nurturers and community builders (and, as in the case of Mad Dog's exiled first wife, literally feeds society when she sets up a vending stand near a high traffic street). As in Lee's films, Bekolo uses archetypal characters, informal fourth wall address, jaunty camerawork, and integral incorporation of pop music to illustrate the paradox of social and gender inequity and anachronism of contemporary life in post-colonial Cameroon.