'Bamako' Puts Globalization on Trial

Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako offers his testimony

On some level, this latest film from Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako (Waiting for Happiness) is a flamboyant fantasy: Wouldn't it be great if Africa could force globalization and its masters—the World Bank, the IMF—to stand trial for committing crimes against humanity? But as cinema always calls to order the court of public opinion, Bamako is no less pragmatic a real-world endeavor than Sicko. Sissako shoots much of the film as if it's a documentary, recording impassioned testimony given by ordinary citizens in a communal courtyard of the titular town, while African judges in white wigs and robes look on. "The World Bank is the Trojan Horse of capitalism," argues one plaintiff—and indeed the social services of African nations have been violently slain by these sneaky, debt-inducing forces.

Court is now in session: Aissata Tall Sall, William Bourdon, and Assa Badiallo Souko in 'Bamako'
New Yorker Films
Court is now in session: Aissata Tall Sall, William Bourdon, and Assa Badiallo Souko in 'Bamako'

Through less realist means, Sissako also encourages us to see that globalization is the spaghetti Western of economic policy, as a film within the film features Danny Glover (exec-producer of Bamako), along with Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, riding in on horseback to settle a score. In some quarters of the critical establishment, a remake of For a Few Dollars More would've earned more favorable notices than Bamako, which one reviewer has illustratively deemed an "awkward, dull film" and "more a lecture than a movie." Apparently Sissako's reminder that African children will likely die in the tens of millions over the next five years should be issued from behind a podium and not in a "dull" film whose vibrant cinematography and soaring Malian pop—and guns—give its crisis-level concerns a broader reach.

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