You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Waiting For Happiness

Director Abderrahmane Sissako's "Waiting for Happiness" suggests a world of poignant contradictions, between immobility and departure, belonging and rootlessness, tradition and modernity, local culture and outside influence. Like Sissako's much-admired 1998 feature "Life on Earth," significant festival attention will follow.

With: Khatra Ould Abdel Kader, Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid, Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed, Nana Diakite, Fatimetou Mint Ahmeda, Makanfing Dabo, Nema Mint Choueikh.

Director Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Waiting for Happiness” suggests a world of poignant contradictions, between immobility and departure, belonging and rootlessness, tradition and modernity, local culture and outside influence. Set in a lonely Mauritanian coastal town that functions as a transit point, this is a poetic reflection on themes of exile, travel, home and displacement. While the visually exquisite drama requires considerable distillation and at times seems remote, its impressionistic observations continue to coalesce and its soulful mood lingers well after the end credits. Like Sissako’s much-admired 1998 feature “Life on Earth,” significant festival attention will follow.

Setting is Nouadhibou, a wind-blown seaside village of mainly temporary housing, which most people merely pass through. This is a place where ships sail close to shore, planes fly overhead from a nearby airport and trains pass by. But despite these links to the world beyond, Sissako exposes instead a sense of solitude and inescapability, with departed people spat back up onshore by the sea, swallowed by the sand, or ceasing to exist altogether once they leave.

Popular on Variety

The outside world enters with 17-year-old Abdallah (Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed), visiting his mother before leaving for Europe. Listless, unconnected and unable to speak or understand the local language, he becomes a mute observer of life in the village. Doctors see patients, a photographer takes portraits, a fabric merchant sells veils, groups of women sing, dance, drink tea and flirt with men, a Chinese immigrant serenades his sweetheart in a karaoke bar, a woman teaches traditional music and song to a young girl.

More personal stories are glimpsed such as that of a village prostitute (Nana Diakite) rejected by her husband after traveling overseas to inform him of their daughter’s death. An old handyman (Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid) speaks sorrowfully of a friend now lost to him, who handed him an air ticket and invited him to leave Nouadhibou. The same old man battles with faulty village electricity connections, watched carefully by a young orphan and aspiring electrician (Khatra Ould Abdel Kader), who appears to gravitate toward the outside world but disappears in the arresting final shots into the desert landscape.

Underscored by songs and by the sounds of the wind and sea, the gentle drama casts a cumulative spell as its simple, beautifully composed images wash over the viewer. Rather than being overwhelmingly melancholy, the themes of solitude, limbo and isolation are delicately countered by the spirit and serenity of the villagers, played by a non-professional cast given freedom to improvise.

Waiting For Happiness

Un Certain Regard/Mauritania - France

Production: A Haut et Court release (in France) of an Arte France presentation of an Arte France/Duo Films production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Executive producer, Guillaume de Seille. Directed, written by Abderrahmane Sissako.

Crew: Camera (color), Jacques Besse; editor, Nadia Ben Rachid; art directors, Joseph Kpobly, Laurent Cavero; sound (Dolby SR), Antoine Ouvrier, Alioune Mbow. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 19, 2002. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Khatra Ould Abdel Kader, Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid, Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed, Nana Diakite, Fatimetou Mint Ahmeda, Makanfing Dabo, Nema Mint Choueikh.

More Film

  • The Day is Long and Dark

    Francisco Barreiro Cast in Upcoming Julio Hernández Cordón Project (EXCLUSIVE)

    Julio Hernández Cordón, one of Mexico’s most-awarded independent filmmakers over the last decade, has found the leading man for his next feature “The Day is Long and Dark (My Friends are Vampires),” in Fantastic Fest best actor winner Francisco Barreiro, star of Adrián García Bogliano’s “Here Comes the Devil.”. Barreiro’s casting was shared with Variety from Buenos [...]

  • Macabre

    Rio Fest’s Compact Edition Opens Amidst Sectorial Crisis

    RIO DE JANEIRO  — The 21st Rio Intl. Film Fest opens Monday Dec. 9t with the screening of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” in the Odeon landmark theater. The smaller than usual edition, which was almost cancelled due to the lack of municipal backing, reflects the crisis of Brazil’s film sector, involved in a battle with the administration [...]

  • Papa-YouTuber

    Peru’s ‘Papa YouTuber’ Goes Global (EXCLUSIVE)

    Argentine sales agency FilmSharks Int’l label The Remake Company has sold remake rights at Ventana Sur to Peruvian family comedy hit “Papa YouTuber” (“YouTuber Dad”) to Mexico’s Cinepolis and Italy’s Colorado Films, with several other territories pending. Advanced discussions are underway in Germany, with Spain, France and the U.S. also pending. “The U.S. deal will [...]

  • Elia Suleiman attends the screening of

    'Pleasure Is Extremely Political,' Palestinian Filmmaker Elia Suleiman Says

    In a freewheeling masterclass held at the Marrakech Film Festival on Thursday, director Elia Suleiman offered as concise a mission statement as can be, defining his guiding beliefs in four short words. “Pleasure is extremely political,” said the Palestinian director, whose films have approached the fraught nature of life in the occupied territories with a [...]

  • Panel-Ventana-Sur-2019-1

    Ventana Sur: Industry Luminaries Converge, Talk Women In Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES – Ventana Sur’s Opening Windows conference series welcomed an esteemed line-up of women in film to Buenos Aires’ UCA campus on Wednesday afternoon for a panel that sought to familiarize the audience with the enormous weight of breaking into a male-dominated industry throughout the years. Among the panelists was Argentine Producer Lita Stantic, [...]


    Eurimages Winning Project ‘Almamula’ Stands Out at Ventana Sur’s Proyecta

    Juan Sebastian Torales arrived at this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase for Latin American projects as one of the event’s most buzzed up debutants with his upcoming semi-autobiographical feature “Almamula.” In September, Torales and producer Pilar Peredo, from France’s Tu Vas Voir, pitched the project at San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum, where it won the Eurimages [...]

  • Leila Kilani's 'Joint Possession' Questions the

    Moroccan Director Leila Kilani on 'New Type of Hero' in 'Joint Possession'

    Moroccan director Leïla Kilani presented the rough cut of her second feature film, “Joint Possession,” in the post-production section of Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops. She spoke to Variety about the film, which she describes as a “war film, inside a family.” Kilani’s debut feature “Sur la Planche” (“On the Edge”), about two women flirting [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content