Mama Benz and the Taste of Money

"Mama Benz" is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco.

With:
With: Henk Bremerm Alice Gouba, Kouenon Kamidjigha, Pauline Ilbooudo, Herman Fenteener van Vlissingen, Eric Loko, Fabrice Ruiz. (French, Dutch, More dialogue.)

Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by African women. Male-owned and operated Vlisco is shown manipulating its way into the existing female-run system of wholesalers, market stalls and large shops. Highly unusual in its jaunty presentation and slow-dawning revelations, docu should play well on fest circuit and find a niche on cable or public television.

Helmer Karin Junger plays her cards close to the vest, seemingly showing no particular bias. Initial scenes of Vlisco setting up shop in Holland and Burkina Faso are underscored with misleadingly happy-go-lucky music. Intercut with company scenes are interviews with a young market vendor, Alice, whom Junger follows on her daily rounds as she talks about her dream of becoming a “Mama Benz” (the generic name given to rich businesswomen derived from their status-symbol Mercedes). Alice has given Vlisco’s advance-men information on how the local businesses operate in the hope of preferential treatment.

It soon becomes apparent that beneath the flattering assurances of Vlisco representatives, their conditions are, in the words of their own director, draconian. Their extremely vendor-unfriendly agenda cuts out the richer and more experienced businesswomen, then intimidates the younger and poorer tradeswomen. High wholesale prices, requisite large orders and fixed sales prices in a bargaining economy leave them scrambling to stay afloat.

The subversive nature of what appears on the surface to be a company-sanctioned near-infomercial sneaks up on the viewer. But, in retrospect, Junger has subtly seeded her docu with warning signals, moments that arouse fleeting unease. Docu opens with a company man explaining the precautions employees must take to avoid being contaminated by the dirty money they handle. Under a phalanx of Vlisco men walking through the marketplace, vaguely Morricone-ish music hints at later sinister showdowns.

Throughout, shots of the glorious batik prints in various stages of design and manufacture illuminate a richness that most people ironically believe to be symbolic of indigenous African industry.

Mama Benz and the Taste of Money

Netherlands-Burkina Faso

Production: A Ryninks Films production in co-production with IKON and RNTV. Produced by Carmen Cobos, Estelle Bovelander. Directed by Karin Junger. Screenplay, Junger, Judith Vrekis.

Crew: Camera (color, video), Adi Schrover, Brigit Hillenius; editor, Maaik Krijgsman; sound, Albtert Grooters. Reviewed at Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York City, Nov. 16, 2002. (Also in Utrecht and Vancouver Film Festivals.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With: With: Henk Bremerm Alice Gouba, Kouenon Kamidjigha, Pauline Ilbooudo, Herman Fenteener van Vlissingen, Eric Loko, Fabrice Ruiz. (French, Dutch, More dialogue.)

More Film

  • A Quiet Place

    China Box Office: ‘A Quiet Place’ Opens Third Behind ‘Infinity War'

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

  • Patricia Morison Dead: 'Kiss Me Kate'

    Patricia Morison, Stage Star of 'Kiss Me, Kate', Dies at 103

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

  • Does Cannes Have a Future? Yes,

    Does Cannes Have a Future? Yes, But the Festival Needs to Change

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

  • DEADPOOL 2

    'Deadpool 2' Leads International Box Office With Powerful $176 Million Debut

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

  • BlacKkKlansman

    Variety Critics Name the 12 Best Movies From Cannes 2018

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

  • DEADPOOL 2

    Box Office: 'Deadpool 2' Propels to $125 Million Opening

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

  • U.S.-China Film Talks Now Part of

    U.S.-China Film Talks Now Hostage to Trade War (Report)

    Mama Benz” is an inventively sly docu: In the guise of a bouncy little puff piece, pic argues colonialism in Africa did not die, it just turned corporate. Film chronicles the opening of a wholesale/retail outlet in Ouadougou by the Dutch textile company Vlisco. Firm designs, manufactures and exports “Dutch wax” batik prints prized by […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content