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Tricia's retro film review: Mandabi



Mandabi is the 1968 Senegalese comedy film directed by Ousmane Sembene. Ibrahim is a typical Senegalese man who lords it over his household, although he’s broke. One day, he receives a money order from his nephew, who had moved to France. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the proper documents, so he tries to go get them. This is a lot harder than it looks. To make matter worse, people are begging him for money, since they’re also poor. Can he cash in the order before the deadline is up?

This is a pretty good satire that can be enjoyed on its own merits. While knowing Senegalese history helps, it’s not mandatory to be able to enjoy the film. Ibrahim is set up to look like a fool. He thinks he’s the all-knowing patriarch who knows what’s best, but he can’t even keep track of a money order. Even his outfit symbolizes his ridiculousness as it resembles a flimsy trap that could easily blow away in the wind. Viewers who have to deal with bureaucracy will get a chuckle at Ibrahim’s attempts to get the right documents. The film lets the viewer decide if Ibrahim’s cousin was telling the truth or not, since both stories are plausible, given the fact that Senegal was a poor nation. The ending is a call to action for social reform, although we don’t know if Ibrahim learns it. To be fair, his relative could send a newer money order. The scenes where everybody finds out about the money order and begs him for a share are pretty funny and border on slapstick. Especially when his wives lie about him getting hurt so they can get sympathy and he finds out later. Honolulu film fans should watch this movie.

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