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Faraw! Mother of the Dunes
Mali, 1997, directed by Abdoulaye Ascofaré

Showing at 7:30pm March 29, 2002 at the Seattle Art Museum as part of the Northwest African Film Festival. Complete schedule at www.rakumi.org





This month marks the first Northwest African Film Festival. It’s not a musical event, but it is something that Spin the Globe listeners will certainly find of interest, because it provides another type of window into other cultures.

My experience with African film is limited, though the ones I’ve seen have been engaging and powerful. Taafe Fanga “Skirt Power” (Mali, 1997, directed by Adama Drabo) looks at what happens when the genders switch roles in a village. Jit (Zimbabwe, 1993, directed by Michael Raeburn) features Oliver Mtukudzi and is a very African version of the common story of love overcoming class differences. The zany, subtly racist The Gods Must Be Crazy (Botswana, 1980, directed by Jamie Uys) looks at a clash of traditional and modern cultures.

Faraw stands apart from these films as a serious drama without comic relief. Zamiatou is a mother of a beautiful daughter and two healthy boys, but her husband has been returned from jail a mental and physical wreck, and the kids are acting out. And the family’s food and money are exhausted. The situation looks hopeless. It may take a village to raise a family, but that doesn’t mean the village will solve your problems for you. Zamiatou’s tough choices are written on her face and echoed in the harsh desert landscape, a landscape that ultimately provides a way out of her trouble.

This is an inspiring film about the resilience of the human spirit, and particularly that of African women. Catch it and other African films at the Festival or at your local video store, and be prepared for an experience unlike anything Hollywood can provide.

© 2002 Scott Allan Stevens

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