SARRET (aka: THE WAGONER)
(director/writer: Ousmane Sembene; cinematographer: Christian Lacoste;
Gaudier; cast: Ly Abdoulay (Cart Driver); Runtime: 20;
MPAA Rating: NR; New Yorker; 1969-Senegal-in French with
"The black man's Bicycle Thieves."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The black man's Bicycle Thieves is a b/w realistic drama directed with passion by Africa's most renown film-maker Ousmane Sembene ("Xala"/"Ceddo"/"Moolaadé"), the Senegalese novelist and Moscow-trained filmmaker.
It's about one day in the
life of the pensive impoverished cart driver (Ly
Abdoulay), who lives in the poor native quarters of
Dakar, Senegal. He begins his day at the break of dawn
in Moslem prayer at his humble home, while his wife
keeps busy with the children. The old man then
attaches his old horse Albourah to his old wooden cart
and goes to work to earn a meager living as a cart
driver. He picks up three destitute passengers who do
not give him money but say thanks, shake his hand or
give him a kola nut. Things pick-up when a paying
customer delivers construction concrete blocks and
another paying fare has him go to the maternity ward
to have them deliver his pregnant wife's baby.
Stopping for a lunch break, where he dines on the kola
nut, the old man gets carried away listening to a
griot (a singing storyteller) sing in a rich voice
about the ancient days that remind the miserable
cart-driver of those glory days for his noble ancestral family.
In a foolish whim, the unnamed cart-driver forks
over to the storyteller the money from his morning
fares, forgetting for a moment about his starving
family. Realizing his mistake, in the afternoon, he
takes a questionable fare to the Heights, the modern
French quarters part of Dakar, where horse carts are
not permitted. Foolishly believing the well-dressed
fare when he tells him not to worry because he has
connections, the cart driver finds when he's
ticketed by a cop and the fare runs away without
paying, that he loses his most valuable possession
of the cart to pay the fine.
The film, where most of the
sparse dialogue is derived from the thoughts of the
cart-driver voiced aloud, marks the debut of Sembene
as a filmmaker. This film becomes one of the earliest
indigenous films in
West Africa, and it powerfully shows how the
marginalized live such desperate lives even though
free from their French colonist suppressors. It's a
simple film about how corrupting is the political
system and how defeated are the oppressed, who have
been emasculated and left with no hope for the future
and no way to turn back to the past.
REVIEWED ON 2/22/2012 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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