TASUMA (Daniel Kollo Sanou, 2003)

From Burkina Faso, Tasuma centers on a veteran of France’s colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria, whose robust patience has been worn thin by bureaucratic nonresponsiveness. He has been waiting two years for his pension for ten years, two months and three days of wartime service. After his bona fide application and follow-up letters of complaint, he may feel he has been cast aside by France, which hasn’t honored its commitment to his welfare—an ironical reflection on France’s uneasy colonialist past in Africa. The man’s name is Sogo Sanou (Mamadou Zerbo, delightful), so writer-director Daniel Kollo Sanou’s beautiful comedy may be either a family history or legend. It is leisurely, engrossing, humane, spirited.
     Over and over, Sogo has walked his bicycle down rocky hills from his village and rode to town to collect his check, and each time, having been turned away and given the runaround, he has returned home empty-handed, increasingly frustrated. On the expectation of what France owes him he has bought, on credit, a mill for the women of the village, without which they have been vulnerable to the arduousness and physical dangers of a grindstone. Therefore, he is in danger of losing everything and being sent to prison.
     But this is a comedy, and we never really worry that Sogo Sanou Tasuma—“the fighter,” he was called in his military days—will come to harm. Inspired by his example, the village women unite and repel “the law” that comes to dismantle the mill that Sogo cannot pay for until, and unless, he is paid his pension.
     Despite its aim at bureaucracy, Tasuma is bereft of paranoia; a clerical error has been holding back Sogo’s checks. And Sanou takes wider aim at war, which is deemed to be bereft of value.

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