×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Souli

Alexander Abela's impressive followup to his luminous black-and-white Madagascar-style "Macbeth" is a shimmering, full-palette Madagascar-set update of "Othello." Transposed to a primitive, isolated fishing village, the Shakespearean tragedy regains its profound sense of loss. Clever recasting of the Bard in post-colonial idiom should wow arthouse auds.

With:
With: Eduardo Noriega, Aurelien Recoing, Fatou N'Diaye, Makena Diop, Jeanne Antebi. (French, Malagasy dialogue)

Alexander Abela’s impressive followup to his luminous black-and-white Madagascar-style “Macbeth” (“Makibefo”) is a shimmering, full-palette Madagascar-set update of “Othello.” Transposed to a primitive, isolated fishing village, the Shakespearean tragedy regains its profound sense of loss, of human greatness diverted and deformed by envy and greed. Stunning imagery, sweeping primal emotions, handsomely gifted thesps and a clever recasting of the Bard in post-colonial idiom should wow arthouse auds.

Abela condenses the action into five figures locked in a complex choreography of movements and exchanged glances, the realm of language embodied in the titular figure of the famed Senegalese poet Souli (Makena Diop). Warrior of the pen and not of the sword, Souli still writes but only for himself, toiling as a simple fisherman and silently awaiting the disciple to whom he can transmit the sacred oral tales of which he is sole custodian.

Nobody else speaks much in the movie: The characters are all conceived as advanced practitioners of loaded but largely non-verbal communication.

Souli lives with a lovely younger French woman, Mona (Jeanne Antebi), who works with the women of the village to sell their crafts. Tired of the continued exploitation of the fishermen (including Souli) by a brutish French trader named Yann (Aurelien Recoing), Mona has just perfected a method of making ice which she donates to the village cooperative, thus threatening to end Yann’s lucrative monopoly.

Yann, a conflicted throwback to colonialism, is the Iago of the piece, scheming to stop Mona and discredit and destroy Souli. Yann’s shapely young village mistress Abi (Fatou N’Diaye), who dreams of going to Paris with Yann, embodies a more compromised and complicitous Emilia. Jealous of Mona and of her easy acceptance in both worlds, Abi allows herself to be manipulated and brutalized to create a chain of disharmony and discord.

Into this volatile mix wanders Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), a reimagined Cassio made to order for Yann’s nefarious ends. Though he seems more sinned against than sinning, handsome young Carlos, a graduate student writing his thesis on the stories over which Souli stands guardian, ultimately reveals himself willing to sacrifice honor and integrity for a shot at academic fame.

In Abela’s version of the classic, only the totally innocent die; Mona is suffocated via the traditional pillow, while Carlos and Yann flee, leaving a mortally wounded Souli wordlessly communing with his chastened countrywoman Abi.

Under Abela’s direction, beauty — the beauty of the countryside, of the sea and of the people — becomes a palpable force inseparable from the madness that Yann complains the country has created in him. The simplicity and rightness of the organic, self-contained hamlet of Aboula (an actual village in a remote section of Madagascar where the entire film was shot) drives the European mad, spurring him to blow up his pettiness into murderous proportions. There is more than a touch of Rimbaud’s self-prophesized descent into imperialist decay and corruption in this transplanted Gallic Iago.

Joseph Areddy’s glorious lensing does full justice to the subtle colors of the island, where bands of sea and sky assume the textured wash of a Mark Rothko painting. Never picture-postcard pretty, pic highlights the shapes and materials of the village, with its light-filled see-through bamboo ateliers and passageways formed by fences of fantastically twisted ocean-bleached dead trees.

The camera moves with little or no transition between inside and outside as porches, windows and doors are always open to the elements.

Souli

France - U.K. -Madagascar

Production: A Blue Eye Films/Red Island production with the participation of Scion Films. Produced by Albertino Abela, Farida Fdani, Christophe Duthoit, Alexander Abela. Directed, written by Alexander Abela.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Joseph Areddy; editor, Anthony B. Sloman, Christel DeWynter; music, Deborah Mollison; set designer, Francois Girard; costumes, Julie Mauduech; sound (Dolby SRD), Jeppe Jungersen. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Cinema of Africa), Aug. 28, 2004. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: With: Eduardo Noriega, Aurelien Recoing, Fatou N'Diaye, Makena Diop, Jeanne Antebi. (French, Malagasy dialogue)

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content