Also with: Naky Sy Savane, Lauceni Hasssane, Gazekagnon.
Shyster religion spells power in “In the Name of Christ,” a sobering fable on the growing clout of aberrant sects and the changing structures in African village life. With elements of caricature and satire, Ivory Coast director Roger Gnoan M’Bala gives pic a fresh quality that will be appreciated by specialized auds.
Christianity comes to a little West African village after an outcast swineherd (Pierre Gondo) falls into the river and has a vision of a black baby Jesus, who tells him he has been chosen to save his people.
Dubbing himself Magloire the First, the swineherd claims to be “the cousin of Christ.” The villagers’ scorn turns to awe when Magloire works some trumped-up miracles — like personally impregnating a “sterile” woman and curing a mad woman (Akissi Delta) possessed by a sorcerer.
At first, Magloire’s preaching has the comic edge of social satire. (Why are there rich and poor, good and evil, on the Earth? “For balance,” he replies.) But as his power grows, so does the evil he perpetrates “in the name of Christ.”
In one horrifying scene, he has the childless woman’s husband castrated off-screen. Claiming himself incapable of sin, he sleeps with numerous married women, who then dress like nuns and feed him from their hands.
Though cinematically unsophisticated, the film is a pleasure to watch. Some of Mohammed Soudani’s cinematography is stirring, like the night lensing of red-gowned singers and emerald forests. Paul Wassaba’s score takes its cue from the liturgical music of native sects. Pic won top prize at the Pan-African Film Festival in Ouagadougou earlier this year.