Delwende : The Superstition Trap
Focus on Africa this afternoon with the screening in the section Un Certain Regard of Delwende by the director from Burkino Faso Pierre S. Yameogo, a French-Swiss co-production which represents one of the rare views of cinema from the South at the Cannes Festival. With a meagre budget, African film production is still cruelly dependent on European aid, as Delwende testifies, owing its existence to the French company Dunia Productions, the Swiss outfit Thelma Film (Pierre Alain Meier) and an endowment courtesy of the French-language Audiovisual Southern Fund, not forgetting support from the Italian town of Turin. These are welcome subsidies for an experienced filmmaker who is on his 6th feature (the first was in 1987) and who has already garnered numerous prizes in festivals world-wide, a successful series surely continued by Delwende which poses with sharpness the paradoxical situation of contemporary Africa, stuck halfway between tradition and modernity.
To explore the devastating consequences of superstition, the stranglehold on power by men over women and the abuse of power by the community with regard to individual destiny, Pierre S. Yameogo chose to focus on a family living in a village not far from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina-Faso. Constantly avoiding the pitfalls of a tourist documentary, the director succeeds perfectly in describing the life of this community governed by its Elders, its rituals and its lack of interest in radio news broadcasts listened to by the sole “village idiot”. In fact, a deadly meningitis epidemic strikes but tradition dictates that the witchdoctor must find a scapegoat. The blame falls on Napoko, who is banished from the village, but this was no accident – her husband had fixed the trial. In fact, she also bears a heavy secret; the night before he raped her daughter Pougbila and had her immediately taken away by her future husband. We follow the wandering mother, rejected by all as she attempts to find her daughter and establish the truth. An observation with no concessions of the perverse burden of tradition, interpreted well by a large group of amateur actors and a few talented professionals in the leading roles. A vision of Africa passing comet-like across the Cannes screens, sold internationally by Funny Balloons of France.
(Translated from French)
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