The following is one of the entries from my list of the 100 greatest films (through 2006) from Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
From Zimbabwe, Cameroon and France, Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Le complot d’Aristote, a satirical gangster film indebted to early Godard, turns on a plea for post-colonialist Africa to come more fully into its own.
Gangsters gathered at the Cinema Africa bug out their eyes and brains on nonstop-action movies. Their leader is called Cinéma. Cinéma’s opponent is Cinéaste, who wants African films to liberate itself from cultural neocolonialism and express African cultures, not Hollywood, not U.S. popular culture. Hilariously, the government investigates the reappearance of characters who have already died in previous movies. Clearly, films can usurp, redirect and reinvent reality—a capability all the more dangerous when the “reality” that films serve is of the Hollywood sort, where the values, implicit or explicit, almost invariably support economic exploitation of the Third World.
Can Africa emerge from the shadow that made it “the dark continent” in Western eyes?
The scene of crossing railroad tracks that frames Aristotle’s Plot equally suggests African possibilities and African confusion, with the “civilized” Western view of Africa opposing a homegrown African view or, even, impulse toward such a view, inhibiting the latter from achieving clarity.
Bekolo’s film resists the narrative tyranny that charts a plot for complacent audiences. (Thus the film opposes complacency.) Things unfold in Aristotle’s Plot in a haphazard way. This tack accomplishes two seemingly contradictory things. One, it reflects the uncertain, ambiguous nature of existence, the absence in our day of clear definitions and categorical boundaries. At the same time, it contests rigidly plotted films in their seduction of viewers into accepting the most outrageous confections as reality. Like Godard’s, Bekolo’s filmmaking, indebted to Brecht, is much about distancing one’s materials in order to spur thought. Nothing ingratiates in his method, nor is there much that is likeable about this brilliant film.
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