Abderrahmane Sissako

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.2 Waiting for Happiness (2002)
7.0 Bamako (2006)
6.9 Timbuktu (2014)

Abderrahmane Sissako (Mauritania, 1961)

Le Jeu / The Game (1989)

Le jeu is Sissako’s first short film that he realized for his graduation at the Film Institute of Moscow. The story explored by the camera eye is set in the Mauritanian desert and it tracks a young kid playing to the game of war while his father is called back to the front.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

October (1993)

October is a short film of 37 minutes that brought Sissako to Cannes Film Festival. Inspired by his russian life experience, Sissako tells the story of a young African guy who whishes to abandon the Russian suburbs. Even if he is in love with a Russian girl with whom he built a relationship, his desire to move abroad lastly brings to his departure.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Le Chameau et les Bâtons Flottants /The Camel and the Floating Sticks (1995)

A 6-minute adaptation of Jean De La Fountaine’s fables, The Camel and the Floating Sticks marks Sissako’s reuturn to Mauritanian landscapes.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Sabyria (1996)

Sabyria is a part of the "African Dreaming" project which consists in a series of six short films set in six different african countries, all focused on the main theme of “love in Africa”. Sissako directed the one set in Tunisia.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Rostov-Luanda (1997)

Rostov-Luanda is a documentary that tracks Sissako searching throughout Angola an old friend met during his revolutionary years in Moscow. During his quest Sissako interviews many different people, each of whom represents an aspect of angolan ordinary life, revealing the real aim that inspired Sissako’s journey.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

La Vie Sur Terre / Life On Earth (1998)

Life on Earth is a part of the “The year 2000 seen by…” series commissioned by the french/swiss television channel La Sept Arte. The series aim is to represent how different countries experience the new millennium’s eve. Starting with a strong opposition between a Paris full of expensive supermarkets and a rural Mauritania disseminated with tall baobabs, the movie sees Sissako, who plays himself the main role, returning to his father’s native village Soloko.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Heremakono/ Waiting for Happiness (2002) is several stories in one. There is the story of the young man who comes back to his native village but cannot even speak its language and feels like a stranger. There is the story of the child who is being taught to become an electrician by the old electrician who might be dying any day, and who teaches the local language to the young man; the child who is eventually left alone and decides that he's future is somewhere else (and maybe the former is just the latter ten years later). There is the story of the man we only see dead, who pretended to have reached his destination when in fact his fate was to drown on his native shore. There is the untold story (that is only hinted) of the young girl who is learning how to sing and play the kora from an elderly singer and player. Sissako, however, is not a storyteller but rather a poet. He uses images in the most lyrical manner to depict a mood. He then uses scenes as symbols for the state of the mind and the condition of the characters. The subject of his poem is the everyday life of the villagers. The village itself is both a story and a poem, the story of men who are bound to become emigrants and of women who are bound to wait for their men to return, the poem of men who long for a future and of women who long for a present.

The fishermen's village is sandwiched between the beach and the desert. A man finds a tire washed ashore by the tide. The electrician Maata has buried a radio in the sand and his friends cannot find it. His child apprentice, the orphan Khatra, watches a tumbleweed fly in the sky. A car leave, loaded with goods and passenger, driving through the desert to the police checkpoint. Abdallah is a young man who came from another country to visit his family. He is dressed in Western clothes and only speaks French. He spends most of his time in his mother's house, watching the villagers from a small window or watching French television. The electrician Maata and his child apprentice Khatra come to Abdallah's house to install electricity but the light bulb refuses to lighten up. The bulb is perfectly fine, but Maata proclaims that it will never work in that house. A suspicious police officer asks questions about Abdallah, and his mother explains that he is basically a stranger after so many years of absence. The child Khatra is helping Abdallah learn the local language. A young girl is learning how to sing and to play the kora from an elderly woman, another apprentice trying to salvage knowledge. When he is not working with Maata and not tutoring Abdallah, the child watches the ships anchored off the coast. The only person who befriends Abdallah is Nana, who tells the story of how she went to France to get help from her husband when their daughter got sick, but he rejected her and the girl died. Now she's a prostitute. In another city a young man pays a photographer to take pictures of him against a background that shows a Western city, as if he was sending a postcard from that city. Two villagers talk about Michael, a young man who left for Europe two weeks earlier: they try to guess where he might be now. He's the one who is preparing the fake postcard. One night he is washed ashore. The following morning they find his dead body. The police find the pictures in his pockets. He had never reached Europe, but was going to impress his friends with those pictures as if he had been there. The man who found Michael is the same one who had found a tire: both were washed ashore by the tide. Abdallah sleepwalks. Khatra asks Maata if he is afraid to die, and Maata replies that it is natural. Abdallah is introduced to local women (dressed in traditional clothes) but he can't speak their language and they just make fun of him. The electrician and the child wander on the beach carrying a light bulb that is lit. One night the electrician walks out of his house using the light bulb as a torch. It is connected with a long cable to the electrical outlet. But then the electrician dies, the child finds the dead body, the child disconnects the light bulb... and the light is still on. Abdallah is packing. The same driver is taking another load of people towards the border. The child finds a light bulb washed ashore by the tide near a group of wrecked ships. The child picks up the light bulb and walks away. A tumbleweed flies in the air. Abdallah leaves the village. The boy brings the light bulb home and meets the girl who is learning to sing: the two apprentices confront each other. They both look into the magical lens gifted to the village by a traveling Chinese salesman: the girl sees many copies of the boy, whereas the boy sees many copies of the light bulb. Abdallah, carrying his suitcase, tries to climb a sand dune but can't make it. A native comes and easily climbs the sand dune and disappears in the desert. Khatra sleeps and the light bulb turns itself on. Khatra is drawn outside by a colossal light bulb. He takes his sling and destroys the light bulb. The noise of the exploding bulb merges with the noise of a train. Khatra is thrown off the train by the conductor. He sits by the railway tracks and watches as the train leaves. Then he starts walking over the dunes.

Bamako (2006) is one long allegory about Africa.

A trial is taking place in a house's courtyard. There are judges wearing long black robes. There is an audience sitting on regular chairs. There is a witness stand which is just a wooden pedestal. There is just one fan, and only for the judges. The trial pits the world's top financial institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) against African civil society, which is represented by "witnesses" who cut across the social layers. The two lead attorneys are both white, one defending the financial institutions (and therefore globalization) and one defending Africa. The first witness is a female writer, who proudly attacks the financial institutions for imposing a heavy burden on African countries: debt repayment. That financial obligation sucks most of the money that the governments have, and little or nothing is left for economic development. Loan repayment is a sham. She argues that the West has caused its own problems: terrorism and immigration. As the battle of words goes on inside the courtyard, ordinary people can listen to it via loudspeakers while tending to their domestic chores. A man discusses his work as a photographer. His friend is annoyed that he is suspected of stealing a gun from a cop. The next witness is an emigrant who failed to reach Europe after an arduoud trip. Cockroaches are crawling in the sand next to a man who is napping. Migrants are walking through the desert. An old woman yells at one of the black judges basically branding him as a traitor. A family gets together in front of the television set to watch a western movie filmed in a local village. The movie, "Death in Timbuktu", is about a ferocious gang of criminals who kill innocents at random and are looking for a black man. The black man kills one of the sociopaths but we never see the rest of the movie, which in fact ends abruptly after the titles. An attractive woman, Mele, who works as a cabaret singer, tells her unemployed husband that she is going to Dakar. Another expert testifies about the damage caused by colonization first and by globalization now. The friend of the photographer is reading a book to become the guard of a future Israeli embassy. The expert argues that 45 years of cooperation with the financial institution have only brought poverty, malnutristion, illiteracy, unemployment and disease to Africa. The next witness is a former schoolteacher who doesn't say a word and leaves. Outside another man congratulates him for his silence. The cross-eyes chief of the police investigates the vanished gun. The next witness is a woman who denounced corruption. She talks about a conspiracy to leave the country with no communication, energy and transport. A journalist tries to interview a man who argues that the biggest damage of globalization has been the destruction of civil society but the man refuses to talk because it would be useless. Every now and then the singer walks by, indifferent to the proceedings. The cross-eyed police chief wants to interrogate her about the missing gun but she scorns him. An old man stands up from the audience and starts singing a song of grief. The people outside lower their heads. The trial concludes with two passionate harangues, one by a male white defense attorney, who asks for a sentence against humanity of "community service for eternity", and the other one by a female black attorney, who argues that debt repayment is amoral, shocked that the country is now heading towards privatization of education and health care. The singer performs in a club, crying bitter tears. Her husband at home is taking care of their child. In the outskirts of town someone is killed by a gunshot. The last scene is his funeral.

Tiya's dream (2008)

In 2008 Sissako directed one of the eight short films of the “8” series. Centred on the eight millennium development goals, Sissako’s segment "Tiya's Dream" treats the theme of eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)


In occasion to the 60th avviversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, Sissako took part to the series “Stories of Human Rights” of which he directed the segment called “Dignity”, a short film that tries to analyze the real meaning of this concept.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Je Vous Souhaite La Pluie (2010)

Je vous souhaite la pluie is a short film that denotes Sissako’s attention to the enviromental cause. Set in a village lost in the middle of the desert, the film focuses on a young mother who is waiting for the rain to start while holding her baby in her arms.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Timbuktu (2014)

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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