Moussa Sene Absa’s videographed And So Angels Die, about a man whose life is out-of-focus, is trenchant and clear-eyed. Born Senegalese, but with a white wife and their children in his adopted home outside Paris (a poet, he has disappointed wife, himself and marriage by ending up a supermarket janitor), Mory—played by Absa himself—doesn’t know what he wants or where he should be. He left for Europe after the death of his childhood sweetheart, Kumba, who, faced with his indecision (Mory’s father disapproved of Kumba’s lower caste), had married someone else. Now, family is pressuring him into a “second marriage,” with Yacine, but this also fails to materialize; faced with Mory’s indecision, she also marries (for money) someone else. His return visit to his impoverished village in Senegal, however, introduces to him a young nephew whose spirited nature counters Mory’s disillusionment and lost innocence. There is still hope.
But still no decisiveness. The “film” leaves Mory, accompanied by his suitcase, alone on the quay. Will he return to France?
Shot in color, And So the Angels admits shafts of the past in black and white; we see Mory both as a boy and as a young man. (While Absa was in his forties, one gets the impression that Mory is in his thirties.) These flickers of Mory’s memory “fill us in”; moreover, they locate Mory at the crossroads of past and present. They suggest the coordinates that plot his ambivalence and indecisiveness, trapping him in a suspended life. His predicament accumulates into a metaphor for post-colonial Africa’s own divided existence between Europe and the future in Africa toward which Africans struggle.
The most searing passage involves a human foot, a Western shoe that cannot quite accommodate it, and a machete.
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