These two now classic shorts, Le Franc and La petite vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl who Sold the Sun) by the iconoclastic Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety were originally intended as a trilogy under the title, Tales of Ordinary People. Mambety's untimely death in 1998 prevented the completion of the third film.
Mambety had a genius for constructing allegories or fables that represent abstract economic concepts through everyday human dramas. Newsweek commented that Mambety's work is "rich with symbolism and spirituality" which uses film to project a vital image of his native continent."
In the first film, Le Franc, Mambety uses the French government's 50% devaluation of the West African Franc (CFA) in 1994, and the resulting hardships as the basis for a whimsical commentary on using the lottery for survival.
The hero of this tale is Marigo, a penniless musician living in a shanty town, relentlessly harassed by his formidable landlady. He survives only through dreams of playing his congoma (a kind of guitar) which has been confiscated in lieu of back rent. But winning the lottery changes his life. Played with slapstick gusto by the gangly, rubber-legged Dieye Ma Dieye, Marigo is both comic and poignant, a Senegalese Charlie Chaplin.
In La petite vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl who Sold the Sun), Mambety brings us the feisty Sili Lam, a twelve year old paraplegic who becomes the first girl to sell a daily newspaper in the competitive world of young male newspaper vendors. She takes on a policeman whom she accuses of shaking her down as well as the boys who taunt her. When some boys take her newspapers and crutches, and her friend asks her "What next?" she triumphantly responds, "We continue". The scenes - moving, satiric and comic, are expertly played by non-professional actors to a score by acclaimed musician Wasis Diop (Mambety"s brother).
"A wondrous affirmative political allegory and an exercise in stylized neo-realism. One of the top ten of the year." - Village Voice "The humanity Mambety shows is so piercingly and immediately moving in its angelic matter-of-factnesss, its holy and surreal." - San Francisco Chronicle
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