You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tall as the Baobab Tree

Generational values clash in a Senegalese town in "Tall as the Baobab Tree," American director Jeremy Teicher's quietly eloquent first fiction feature.

With: Dior Ka, Oumoul Ka, Cheikh Dia, Alpha Dia, Mboural Dia, Mouhamed Diallo. (Pulaar, French dialogue)

Generational values clash in a Senegalese town in “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” American director Jeremy Teicher’s quietly eloquent first fiction feature. Based on real-life situations and more than competently thesped by the villagers of Sinthion Mbadane themselves, the film never takes sides, maintaining a remarkably sympathetic balance between the ancient survivalist traditions of the elders and the aspirations of their educated offspring. “Baobab” also avoids feeling forced or artificially picturesque, combining the artlessness of documentary with the aesthetic unity of fiction. But its simple story may prove too uneventful even for arthouse auds.

Coumba (Dior Ka), the first member of her family to be educated, has just successfully passed her exams when her older brother, Sileye (Alpha Dia), falls from a baobab tree, seriously injuring his leg. Teicher establishes the film’s city/country, education/tradition dichotomy early on, cutting between scenes of Coumba, walking to her urban school with her visiting younger sister, Debo (Oumoul Ka), and shots of Sileye, gracefully clambering around the baobab tree, cutting tender shoots for the livestock below.

With Sileye’s leg requiring expensive procedures, the children’s father (Mouhamed Diallo) dispatches Coumba to watch the herd, and arranges to marry 11-year-old Debo to a rich man, but Coumba and Debo both recoil at the idea. Debo had hoped to follow in her big-sister’s footsteps, and Coumba, with a student’s idealism, believes she can easily land work to earn enough for Sileye’s treatments. But when she finally finds employment as a maid, the pay doesn’t meet her lofty expectations. Meanwhile, her father interviews prospective bridegrooms, and her mother (Mboural Dia) tries to reconcile her daughters to tradition.

Teicher treats the cultural split between generations as a constantly mediated middle ground, where respect demands compromise on both sides. Having previously lived in the village while shooting an earlier documentary, he easily hooks into the differing rhythms of the rural areas, with their lack of running water or electricity, and the city, with its conveniences but somewhat alienating work, careful to show intrinsic value in each.

Chris Collins’ serene lensing highlights the family’s closeness and its connection to the environment, while Jay Wadley’s African harp score adds to the pic’s authenticity.

Tall as the Baobab Tree


Production: A CyberSmart Learning Institute production. Produced by Mala Bawer. Co-producer, Jeremy Teicher. Directed by Jeremy Teicher. Screenplay, Teicher, Alexi Pappas.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Chris Collins; editor, Sofi Marshall; music, Jay Wadley; sound (Dolby Stereo), Adama Ba. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (First Features, competing), Aug. 31, 2012. Running time: 82 MIN.

Cast: With: Dior Ka, Oumoul Ka, Cheikh Dia, Alpha Dia, Mboural Dia, Mouhamed Diallo. (Pulaar, French dialogue)

More Scene

  • John CenaSports Illustrated Sportsperson of the

    John Cena on WWE's Acceptance by Hollywood and the Professional Sports World

    John Cena says the WWE is finally getting the attention it deserves by Hollywood and the professional sports world. “I’m just glad that no longer are we looked down upon, not only by the sport industry, but by the performing arts industry,” Cena told Variety on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills at Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Christian Bale'Vice' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Christian Bale Recalls Meeting Donald Trump: 'He Thought I Was Bruce Wayne'

    With Christian Bale‘s latest film, “Vice,” a political dramedy, it’s inevitable ties will be drawn between the film and the current political administration and its chief, President Donald Trump. On the red carpet for the premiere of “Vice,” Bale, who stars as former Vice President Dick Cheney, shared that he met the current president while [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  More Reviews Film Review: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content