BAMAKO (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2006)

Deleting one of the former entries to make room for it, here is an entry I have newly added to my 100 Greatest Films from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean list:

They take our money; they take our minds, too.
     Mali’s Abderrahmane Sissako’s masterpiece begins at dawn; the village of Bamako is waking up. Among intercut actions: daily activities; an impoverished couple quarrel as their ill daughter sleeps; a man scrounges a living videographing weddings and funerals; a trial in a courtyard, where the West’s financial and economic forces bleeding Africa—the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, the G8—face charges in absentia.
     A western film-within-the-film encapsulates African frustration, anger—for many, repressed feelings. “The trial’s becoming annoying,” one villager opines.
     It fascinates us, however. “Pay or die,” an attorney for the plaintiff, black Africa, declares. “That’s the West’s lesson.”
     Africa finds itself trapped in a “vicious circle” of debt, owed to the World Bank and the IMF; while 10% of a nation’s annual budget may be directed to social services, education, infrastructure, etc., at least 40% goes to debt repayment—because of interest, an infinite amount. The borrowed money, we learn, wasn’t invested in creating jobs. The world is “open” for whites, not African blacks, who are sent back home when they try emigrating to find work. Barely living under “imposed destitution” (life expectancy is 46), they find multinational corporations seizing whatever a nation needs to be sovereign. Colonialism “took everything away”; this new form of colonialism keeps taking. The World Bank threatened to withdraw financial support if the transport system wasn’t privatized. Victims of “unchained capitalism,” people have had their public institutions and social services sold off. While two-thirds of their children are illiterate, now they must pay for education.
     Hilariously, the judges settle uneasily into their robes. A dog that earlier appeared dead may have sprung back to life, but only to sniff at the corpse of a suicide.

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