Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Issue-driven drama has rarely been so polemic as it is in this fierce attack on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s role in African poverty.

Director Abderrahmane Sissako (Waiting For Happiness) sets up a theatrical style court in the courtyard of a house, where the prosecutors and defence argue about the blame that lies at the door of the West – particularly that of capitalist institutions such as the World Bank and IMF – in respect of African poverty and declining life expectancy.

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Periodically, he throws in a snatch of life outside of the trial – a woman whose marriage is crumbling, another getting wed, a man dying – all clearly intended to illustrate the damning facts being presented.

While it is fair to say that this is a strongly worded argument, the facts are quite plain. African debt is crippling and, despite G8 promises, difficulties with it remain. Equally, the IMF and World Bank have forced a ‘structural framework’ upon many nations, which has resulted in them selling off the family silver – such as national railways - to make their payments. This has resulted in poverty increasing, with people forced from their homes because the trains no longer stop. It is worth noting that the debt paid so far works out at around four dollars per head of population in Africa, with the amount still owed a further four dollars per person. Which many would argue is 'criminal'.

Although Sissako’s film is scathing about the West, he reserves plenty of vitriol for Africans to, with much of the movie serving as a ‘call to arms’ or rather a ‘call to care’. He suggests Africa is complicit in its own failure to get out from under, particularly by the use of a film within the film – a faux Western, starring Danny Glover, in which he suggests cowboys, in the widest sense of the word, are everywhere, killing Africans at random.

You can’t help but feel that if Sissako had eased up on the message a little and let more narrative in - as Laurent Salgues does in Buried Dreams, which also deals with hope and poverty in Africa - he would be reaching a much wider audience with what is, undoubtedly, a well-argued case.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2007
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Scathing attack on the World Bank and IMF's role in African poverty, set within a loose narrative framework.
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London 2006

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If you like this, try:

Buried Dreams