Wrestling Grounds

Wrestling Grounds


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The true title of Cheikh Ndiaye's enthralling and well-made film is The Call Of The Arena, which is far more pertinent than Wrestling Grounds, which sounds too much like Killing Fields.

In Senegal, where music and shamen are central to life, The Arena is the aspiration of young men. Wrestling has history and is so much part of the culture that it is a spiritual act as much as a physical one.

Copy picture

The film follows Nalla, a teenager from a middle-class family in Dakar, who becomes fascinated by the rituals, not to mention the discipline, of the wrestling community. He is taken under the wing of the powerful Andre, an inspirational teacher of the sport. At home, his father is away on business and his mother disapproving of what she sees as selfish adolescent behaviour - making decisions independent of her authority.

At the other end of the social scale is Sory, a compulsive gambler who refuses to get a job and expects his girlfriend to bankroll him. To pay off his debts, he persuades an old school friend and budding gangster to employ him as a ticket tout and street hustler.

Both stories cover aspects of Dakar life, interwoven with music and sex. Girls are ever present, supportive and sensual appendages to the masculine ethos, far more seductive and valuable than the men like to admit.

Ndiaye's use of location conveys a fierce impression of a night city alive with danger and excitement, as well as beach scenes in the early evenings when the wrestlers train. They share a grace with dancers and are more like performance artists than the freakish pantomime clowns of North American stadium shows.

African cinema is building its own niche, ever more impressively, and Wrestling Grounds is one of the finest examples.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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The honour and respect for a cultural sport beside the dangers and excitement of night life in Dakar.

Director: Cheikh Ndiaye

Writer: Cheikh Ndiaye

Starring: Abdoul Aziz Ndiaye, Ibrahima Mbaye, Moustapha Gueye, Mohamed Ndao, Seynabou Sarr, Doudou Kaire, Khadidja Gueye, Pape Thiam

Year: 2006

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Morocco, France


EIFF 2006

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