Banel & Adama (2023)

March 12th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Wir/Dir: Ramata-Toulaye Sy | Cast: Mamadou Diallo, Moussa Sow, Binta Racine Sy | Drama 87′

Senegal’s dry sunny climate and spare sandy landscapes make a spectacular setting for this simple but never simplistic love story from first time feature director Ramata-Toulaye Sy. It sees a young couple conflicted by the modern world and the spirituality of African folklore.

Vibrant images and spectacular framing picture the newlyweds Banel and Adama at peace in their small village. But dark clouds soon gather over their idyll when Adama becomes increasingly absent from the picture dealing with his commitments as a farmer in a worrying drought. Banel spends her days aimlessly walking around repeatedly talking about her plans to leave the village and emerging as a rather spiteful and vacuous character, killing small birds and reptiles with a sling through boredom and bitterness.

A little boy named Malik is always on her trail, monitoring her movements. Adama calls him a “scribe angel,” who is trying to read her mind. But Banel becomes abusive towards him and she realises the futility of her life without a clear purpose. Is the director trying to make a point about a women’s role in tribal society. While the men tend their cattle the women have their own part to play. They must run the home and bear children. If so Banel is neither a trailblazer nor a role model, but a frustrated character and her life is without foundation in these shifting sands.

Ramata-Toulaye Sy has an outstanding gift for visual storytelling and a real eye for framing. Banel and Adama is a cinematic and atmospherically powerful film full of striking imagery, brooding discontent and baleful glances, including the extraordinary sand storm sequence that brings this enigmatic feature to a close. There are some intriguing ideas and concepts at play, but whether the story – about tradition and the modern world – can captivate an audience for the film’s entire running time, without character development and a satisfying plot resolution, is questionable. So script development is certainly where this talented filmmaker needs to focus her attention. MT



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