Un Certain Matin, 1991
A farmer named Tiga’s seemingly uneventful trip to the woods sets the stage for an unexpected collision between truth and fiction, reality and celluloid, that is illustrated to wry, comic effect in Fanta Régina Nacro’s first feature, Un Certain Matin. Setting out one morning from his native village on the Mossi plateau in Burkina Faso to the tranquility of nearby woods in order to build a chair in peace, away from his children’s calls for attention and other villagers’ solicitations for gardening advice, Tiga’s relaxing pastime is soon interrupted by the chaotic sight of a woman crying for help as she is chased through the plains by a machete-wielding man, and who, in the midst of a struggle, appear to reconcile and walk away together. However, when Tiga again encounters the woman frantically running away from her pursuer, his well-intentioned attempt to come to the aid of the damsel in distress leads to unforeseen consequences. During the Q&A for the program, Nacro commented that she had intentionally used an all female crew for the film in order to reinforce the idea that women are capable of working in technical capacities in Burkina Faso’s almost exclusively male film industry. In creating an implicit parallel between the fictional metafilm and the reality of the film’s production, Nacro subverts the notion of a male-dominated industry into an equally fascinating behind-the-scenes realization of solidarity and empowerment.
The coincidental intersection of a beautiful Senegalese woman’s taxicab ride arrival into Ouagadougou, and a happily married professional couple’s public display of affection in front of an appliance store display window while shopping for a new washing machine (a seemingly indecorous act that inadvertently causes the traffic to stop) sets the symbolic stage for Nacro’s humorous and ironic satire on the seven year itch and the elusive nature of seduction and desire in Puknini. Chronicling Salif ‘s indiscretions through Isa’s increasing suspicions (and curious observations) over her husband’s fidelity, Nacro subverts the hackneyed cinematic convention of scandalous confrontation (a thwarted scenario that is suggested in a mob’s aggressive behavior towards the woman) and ménage à trios complicity through an anticlimactic encounter, mutual respect, and unexpected solidarity.
Konaté’s Gift, 1998
In Konaté’s Gift, a profoundly relevant and contemporary social issue – AIDS awareness – comes in the unexpected form of a traditional, tale-teller styled, lyrical adventure. Upon returning from the city after a visit, Konaté’s second wife, Djénéba receives a package from her brother that, as he subsequently explains, is a life-saving gift for her husband: a box of condoms. Arguing that the threat of AIDS is only a myth created by Westerners, and egged on to refuse to succumb to his wife’s entreaties by the men of the village who, baffled by the application of the curious object, are convinced that such an alien contraption could only diminish his virility, Konaté refuses to yield to Djénéba’s request and instead, makes an out of turn visit to the home of his first wife. Rebuffed by the women in his life, Konaté desperately turns to the village healer. Advised to return to the origin of the object that had caused such personal turmoil and touch the roots of the tree that had borne the strange fruit in order to make peace with it, Konaté embarks on a long and enlightening cross-country journey, where he becomes a first-hand witness to the ravages of ignorance and disease that have rended families and decimated villages. Told with humor and pathos, Nacro’s thoughtful, yet humorous modern day fable idiosyncratically channels the effervescent, yet droll spirit of Jamie Uys’ The Gods Must Be Crazy in its whimsical tale of human absurdity, and infuses a sobering dose of social realism to create an engaging, yet potent public discourse on AIDS education.
The age-old struggle between gender roles, rigid (yet inevitably shifting) traditions, and women’s liberation plays out as a light-hearted, yet astute domestic comedy in Nacro’s Bintou, the 2001 Best Short Film Prize award winner at FESPACO. Unfolding through the eyes of a village housewife, Bintou’s efforts as she resolves to start her own business – and persevere against overwhelming odds – despite her husband Abel’s petty attempts at sabotaging her fledgling sprouted millet cottage industry (invariably fueled by the villagers’ implicit insecurities over their own domestic dispensability) and her mother-in-law’s strenuous objections over the rightful place of women in the home, the film is also an insightful universal tale of the everyday cultural struggles between tradition and modernity and the often slippery process of gender equality that characterize contemporary society. At the heart of Bintou’s seemingly insurmountable task is her determination to single-handedly raise money for her daughter’s education after her husband, a gainfully employed carpenter, decides to only provide school tuition for their two sons. Chronicling Bintou’s evolution from desperate mother, to resourceful businesswoman, to reliable marketer, and finally, to inspirational leader, the film is a refreshingly light-handed exposition on community, family, and women’s empowerment.
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