After a single white Frenchwoman carries out a photography assignment in a Senegalese village, her do-gooder impulses have unforeseen repercussions in “Lili and the Baobab.” Leisurely but thoughtful pic manageably tackles the gap between what constitutes a problem in the privileged West vs. the grass-roots struggles of the Third World. Small, spare and affecting, pic is fest-bound prior to a May 3 release in Gaul.
Thirty-three-year-old Lili (Romane Bohringer) snaps photos for the local government in Cherbourg. Her city, which is twinned with the village of Agnam in Senegal, paid for public works there. While in Agnam — a 10-hour drive from the nearest airport — Lili forms a friendship with Aminata (Aminata Zaaria), who does her laundry and errands. (The two women don’t share a language, and significant chunks of Senegalese dialogue are untranslated to mirror Lili’s experience.) Back in France, Lili learns that Aminata, having given birth to a bastard son, will be chased away to almost certain doom in Dakar. Despite major obstacles, Lili decides to intervene; personal growth ensues all around. Unfussy lensing in Africa drips with local color.