‘Bamako’ a shocking look at plight of African nations

Lauren DiSpirito

The 2006 film “Bamako” illustrates the plight of Africans under the strict policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, organizations that should be helping the people. The film examines how globalization and the managing of African debt by World Bank have affected progress in these regions.

Today, nearly 40 percent of government funds in several African countries are allocated for the repayment of debt owed to Western nations. At the same time, the people of these nations continue to suffer from disease, dehydration and illiteracy.

Through the depiction of a fictitious trial against the IMF, which takes place in the poor Malian capital Bamako, director Abderrahmane Sissako paints a vivid picture of life in this struggling city. During the course of the mock trial proceedings, lawyers in a residential courtyard turned courtroom argue whether World Bank and IMF, in absentia, should be blamed for the current financial state of many impoverished African nations. Local citizens take the stand, including a professor, a farmer, a writer (and former Malian minister of culture) and the village griot – a tribal storyteller who passes on the culture’s history – to discuss the injustice of the crippling debt and the results of privatization in Africa.

Many who appear in the film are natives of Mali; some are lawyers and judges. Sissako’s father once lived in the housing complex in which the film’s courtroom is set. American star Danny Glover, who executive produced this film, also makes an appearance, playing a Western-style assassin who wreaks havoc in an African town in a strange film-within-a-film role.

Sissako, who grew up in Mali, sees Africa “as a zone of injustice,” and his film makes an impassioned plea to end corruption in Africa. While the inequities are certainly serious, the film is not just a sober geopolitical diatribe. Sissako uses music, poetry and humor to leaven the severity of his message.

“Bamako” will be screened four times as part of the ongoing Cultural Film & Lecture Series in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission to all screenings is $3.50 for students with proper ID and $5 for all others. The film will be shown in French and Bambara, a local dialect, with English subtitles.

The Monday evening screening will feature guest speaker Maghan Keita, professor of history and African studies, who will introduce the film and lead a discussion following the screening.

For more information, contact the communication department at X9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page: www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu/.