Mandabi (The Money Order)

Final Friday Film Series
continuing The Anti-Bourgeois Film Series from 2014

Written and directed by Ousmane Sembène

Senegal, 1968, 90 minutes
(In French and Wolof with English subtitles)

The film is based on Sembène’s novel The Money-Order. It is the director’s first film inhis native Wolof language, and also the first full-length African language film from West Africa. Since most of the Senegalese population did not understand French, Sembène wanted to create cinema for Wolof speakers. Sembène’s Mandabi also made for international recognition of his development as a film maker.

An unemployed Senegalese man, Ibrahima Dieng, lives with his two wives and kids in Dakar. His nephew, Abdou, sends him a money order from Paris worth 25,000 francs, which he has saved from working as a street sweeper. Ibrahima is to keep some of the money for himself, save a portion for his nephew, and give a portion to his sister.

However, Ibrahima faces numerous difficulties trying to obtain the money order. Not having an ID, Ibrahima must go through several levels of Senegalese bureaucracy trying to get one, then failing after spending money he doesn’t have. Then his neighbors go to his house asking for money which brings on more debt. In the end, he is swindled by Mbaye, a local businessman, who promised to cash the money order for him, but instead sells Ibrahima’s house to a French man while at the same time stealing the money order, saying that he was pickpocketed. Senegalese neo-realism.

 

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