An urban political corruption story in the uncustomary setting of a poor Senegalese fishing village, "Tableau Ferraille" looks at changing values in an Africa plagued by ingrained social problems and the conflict between modernization and cultural traditions. While the film presents a fairly superficial take on complex issues, director Moussa Sene Absa's light, often humorous approach, plus vibrant production values and a soundtrack to delight African music lovers, make it likely to land TV sales. Back from Europe and eager to use his political studies to help the people of his native village, Tableau Ferraille, idealistic Daam (Ismael Lo) successfully runs for election in the nearby capital of Dakar. He marries village beauty Gagnesiri (Ndeye Fatou Ndaw), who is supportive and loving, but unable to bear children. Since an heir is indispensable to an upwardly mobile politician, Daam takes as his second wife the ambitious Kine (Ndeye Bineta Diop), who delivers him a child but not much loyalty.

Daam ..... Ismael Lo Gagnesiri ..... Ndeye Fatou Ndaw President ..... Thierno Ndiaye Kine ..... Ndeye Bineta Diop Gora ..... Amadou Diop

While Daam makes a meteoric rise from deputy to minister of development, grasping Kine continues to gripe about the limits of their wealth. She begins negotiating in secret with a greedy village businessman known as President (Thierno Ndiaye), who has been refused a helping hand from Daam. Kine slips him the ministerial file on a lucrative bridge-building contract, allowing him to clinch the deal over his more honest competitors.

When President puts the funds to his personal use, a public outcry forces Daam out of office. Stripped of his position and dignity, he is ditched by Kine and returns to the village. Gagnesiri stands by him and is ostracized by the local women, who point to her childlessness as the cause of disruption in her family. With Daam giving in to alcoholism and defeat, and the village increasingly under President’s thumb, Gagnesiri heads off alone toward a new life.

The tale comes together in flashbacks recounted by Gagnesiri as she assesses her life on the eve of her departure. But while the stunning Ndaw has a regal physical presence, Absa fails to establish her character as the film’s real center. Consequently, the potential for a melancholy or perhaps empowering closing note in which she cuts loose from her broken husband and home is diluted.

Despite the bitter conclusion of Daam’s rise and fall, the tone here is mainly upbeat. This carries through to the sunny lensing of the coastal location (Absa’s home village) and the exuberant colors of the pic’s art direction and costumes. Songs are used extensively to comment on events via the folkloric device of a troupe of singers wandering through town.

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Production: An ADR Prods., La Sept Cinema, Canal Horizon (France)/MSA Prods., KUS Prod. (Senegal) production, with participation of the Hubert Bals Fund. (International sales: Flach Pyramide, Paris.) Produced by Pascal Verroust, Alain Rozanes. Executive producer, Ndiouga Moctar Ba. Directed, written by Moussa Sene Absa.

Crew: Camera (color), Bertrand Chatry; editor, Pascale Chavance; music, Absa, Maadu Diabate; art direction, Bouna Medoune Seye; costume design, Mame Fagueye Ba; sound, Maguette Salla; assistant director, Antoine Santana. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival, Feb. 5, 1997. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: Daam ..... Ismael Lo Gagnesiri ..... Ndeye Fatou Ndaw President ..... Thierno Ndiaye Kine ..... Ndeye Bineta Diop Gora ..... Amadou Diop

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