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Faraw! Mother of the Dunes

One of the strongest portraits of female determination to come out of Africa in recent years, "Faraw! Mother of the Dunes" uses the slow rhythms of African cinema to underline the single-minded courage of its heroine, a mother of three. Detail by detail, this finely lensed first feature by Mali helmer Abdoulaye Ascofare salutes the triumph of human ingenuity over terrible odds. Its lingering tempo is not for everyone, but fans of African films will find much to admire in this effort. In a dusty village built out of mud, poverty reigns. None is poorer than Zamiatou (Aminata Ousmane), mother of two small quarrelsome boys and a depressed teenage girl. Her husband is an invalid who was arrested on a trumped-up embezzlement charge and returned from prison mentally and physically destroyed. To find food to keep the family alive, Zamiatou is prepared to do anything, except sell her beautiful daughter to the debauched French settlers who sleep with their maids. When all seems lost, she visits a man who once loved her. He gives her an old donkey and a water bag, with which she succeeds in earning a living.

With:
Zamiatou ..... Aminata Ousmane Husband ..... Balla Moussa Keita Daughter ..... Safiatou Mahaman

Ascofare, who also wrote the story, manages to blend the timeless quality of life in the desert (camel caravans, blue-robed nomads, stone cutters) with some very acrimonious comments about government corruption, skillfully woven into the story.

Lensing in the Sahel desert in Mali and Morocco, cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis turns the immense oceans of sand, where strange rock formations rise up as in Monument Valley, into a legendary landscape. Setting becomes a stark landscape of the soul that reflects Zamiatou’s indomitable willpower and clear thinking.

Also making an important artistic contribution is the musical score of Harouna Barry and Ibrahim Dicko. When Zamiatou’s gray-haired ex returns the symbol of their love, a broken violin, Zamiatou plays it as she rides through the desert, and later dreams of it playing the tune magically by itself. Dreams and memories add depth to the main character, though the lioness’ share of credit goes to thesp Ousmane, who brings great naturalness and power to the role.

Faraw! Mother of the Dunes

Mali

Production: A Films de la Dune Rose/Centre National de Production production. Directed, written by Abdoulaye Ascofare

Crew: Camera (color), Yorgos Arvanitis; additional camera, Lionel Cousin; editors, Mohamed Meziane, Ascofare; music, Harouna Barry, Ibrahim Dicko; sound, Pierre Gauthier. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Intl. Critics Week), May 9, 1997. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: Zamiatou ..... Aminata Ousmane Husband ..... Balla Moussa Keita Daughter ..... Safiatou Mahaman

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