The Other Woman


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Other Woman
"A joyous film."

When I was young, friends from Saudi Arabia told me that lesbianism is commonplace there, where men have multiple wives and are forbidden to enter the women's quarters. Whether or not that was an accurate depiction of a whole country, it's certainly the case that women all around the world discover, from time to time, unexpected benefits to polygamy. Marie Ka's short is set in Senegal and focuses on Madeleine (Awa Sene Sarr), a middle aged housewife whose downcast looks and frumpy fashion choices suggest that she is long past expecting anything exciting to happen in her life - least of all like this.

Amayelle (Khady Ndiaye Bijou) is the sort of woman anyone might feel overwhelmed by: slim, elegant, younger than Madeleine's marriage, immaculately dressed in candy apple red. She's everything the older woman might have dreaded; just walking down the street, she's likely to make wives clutch their husbands more tightly. When she makes overtures of friendship, Madeleine is immediately suspicious. In a clothing shop, Amayelle dresses her up, tells her she's beautiful. Is it a form of mockery? Adrift in this unfamiliar situation, Madeleine is keen to retreat to her familiar spaces, to her home, to her traditional women's work.

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What follows isn't just about the flowering of a new relationship but about Madeleine's rediscovery of her self-confidence and delight in discovering that she can still invoke desire. Sarr quietly shows us this transformation not just in her face but in the whole way she carries herself, whilst Bijou challenges stereotypes about certain kinds of beauty. The result is a joyous film, with Ka using bright coloured fabrics and dance to externalise something of the women's feelings.

A final shot seems to ask how widespread such secret joys might be and, for all its openness, point to the secret, interior spaces where women have traditionally learned to build worlds that men can never hope to control.

Reviewed on: 29 Jul 2018
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A woman who is initially unhappy about her husband taking a second wife discovers that the arrangement has unexpected benefits.

Director: Marie Ka

Writer: Marie Ka

Starring: Awa Sene Sarr, Khady Ndiaye Bijou, Seyni Mbaye, Nogaye Ngom

Year: 2013

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: Senegal


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