Tall As The Baobab Tree

Tall As The Baobab Tree


Reviewed by: Sophie Monks Kaufman

Welcome to the village of Sinthou Mbadane, Senegal, where long- standing traditions and a new wave of educated ideas are at odds. Caught in the crosshairs are Coumba and Debo, two sisters striving to foil their father’s plan to marry off Debo – a pre-pubescent girl whose tiny body is not ready for a man. The family will receive a good price for Debo which will enable them to pay the medical bills of Sileye, the girl’s brother, who hurt his leg when he plopped clean out of a Baobab tree.

While Debo’s destiny plays out, emaciated cows graze on unyielding plains and bright clothes flutter on the barbed wire that serves as washing lines. The girl’s mother pounds grains, her face a mask of resignation. She ceded her will to men the moment she herself married. You get the impression of a place and system preserved in aspic.

Yet it isn’t. Change has come to Sinthou Mbadane and it is epitomised by Coumba who, as the curtain lifts, is en route to her exam results. Despite the dark tattoo across her mouth marking her as village property, she is filled with the fire and confidence of learning and is determined that her younger sister will follow in her footsteps.

American director, co-writer and co-producer Jeremy Teicher worked the story up with real villagers from Sinthou Mbadane, basing the eventual script loosely on their experiences. The authenticity of the characters and the issues they face feels unimpeachable; however the dialogue can, at times, verge into maddening exposition. It would seem that the villagers of Sinthou Mbadane have no interior monologues and rarely feel the need for light-hearted chit-chat. Conversations are for announcing motivations and – if you are lucky enough to wield power – dispensing instructions.

It’s a shame that the dialogue is so profoundly grating as Chris Collins’ cinematography puts you right in the middle of a place where, even at this moment, centuries of traditions hold its inhabitants in thrall. Tall as the Baobab Tree tells a fascinating and frustrating story that leaves you wondering what will happen next.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2012
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After her brother has an accident, her father is forced to sell her younger sister into an arranged marriage, but Coumba hatches a plan to save her.
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Director: Jeremy Teicher

Writer: Jeremy Teicher, Alexi Pappas

Starring: Dior Kâ, Oumoul Kâ, Cheikh Dia

Year: 2012

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Senegal, US

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