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African Perspectives Windhoek: Guimba by Cheikh Oumar Sissoko

In the framework of the monthly filmseries “African Perspectives”, AfricAvenir Windhoek presents the movie “Guimba – A Tyrant and His Era” by Cheick Oumar Sissoko on Saturday, 29 January 2011 at 7 p.m. A short interview with Cheick Oumar Sissoko will be screened before the film.

Date: 29 January 2011
Time: 19h00
Venue: Studio 77, Old Breweries Complex, entrance via Garten Str.
Entrance: 20,- N$

About the film
This Malian film is truly unique. Winner of the most prestigious award in African cinema, the Grand Prize at FESPACO 1995, Guimba has been acclaimed as one of the most visually ravishing African films ever made. This epic allegory contrasts Africa's tremendous wealth and potential with its present poverty and plunder.

“Guimba the Tyrant” is set in a fabled Saharan kingdom called Sitikali, a gorgeous, arid city-state of palaces and labyrinthine streets that form a civilized oasis in the desert. The inhabitants are fashion plates in their robes, headgear and trousers of exquisite African textiles. But there is trouble in this precolonial paradise.

Mixing drama and comedy with a touch of the epic, the film tells the story of Guimba, a ruthless ruler who runs Sitikali like a dictator, surrounded by armed thugs. From his throne, where he sits wearing a tall square hat covering his eyes from the sun, he watches wrestling matches and whips the loser. If any citizen steps out of line, Guimba kills him. His little empire cowers.

Guimba's authority begins to crumble when he demands that a nobleman divorce his wife so that his own son, the physical and moral dwarf, Janginé, can marry her. This ludicrous demand reveals him to the townspeople as a unrestrained beast not a prince; they jeer and defy him and abandon the city to join a rebel force. Isolated, his magic powers exhausted, driven-mad, Guimba is left with no alternative but to commit suicide.

Guimba is thus a story of the restoration of truth and legitimate authority to Djenné, the legendary city where the film was shot, and, allegorically, of democratic, "transparent" government to present-day Africa. In its opulence and epic scale, Guimba recalls and calls for the return of the continent's own former greatness and prosperity.

Comments by the press
"The highest quality ever seen in an African film...The atmosphere is pure magic...In a class by itself."    Variety

"Remarkable for its elegant simplicity...Deserves to be seen and savored by a large audience."    New York Post

"Not to be missed. The costumes are so eye-popping, the performances so full of life, the music so gorgeous that Guimba comes off the screen like a wave of pure pleasure. See Guimba!"     The Nation

"The visual style is glorious and there is boundless energy and optimism in this fable of a tyrant overthrown."     Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Awards

  • Grand Prize - Etalon de Yennega FESPACO 1995
  • Nomination for the Golden Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival
  • Swissair/Crossair Special Price

Sissoko and this film
Director Cheick Oumar Sissoko comments, "Guimba is a political film, a fable about power, its atrocities and its absurdities. I was personally influenced by what I experienced not long ago in Mali, but the ravages of power are, unfortunately, universal." The story has obvious parallels with the 1991 overthrow of Malian dictator Moussa Traore in which Sissoko was active.
Sissoko notes that in Guimba he adapted to film two traditional Malian types of discourse used to "speak truth to power:" kotéba, a popular form of satiric street theatre, and baro, a virtuoso kind of public oratory. Thus Sissoko creates through his film not just an allegory of present-day African politics but a community of viewers prepared to mock illicit power whatever its trappings.

In interviews Cheick Oumar Sissoko has said his purpose was not to make a good American film or a good French film, but a good African film, and he describes the African tradition of discursive narrative as his inspiration. A good storyteller does not stay in the same tone throughout his tale, but is serious, sarcastic, fanciful and absurd as the spirit moves him. The film is told in the same way. Some scenes are played straight, some are fantasies, some are riotous action, some are comic, some are bluntly realistic. The result is a film that is confusing at times, but becomes clear at the end, after you see where all the pieces fit.

About Sissoko
1945 Cheick Oumar Sissoko is born in San, Mali. At first he studies in Paris and finishes in sociology and history. Then he continues to study film at the École nationale Louis Lumière and briefly works with the French filmmaker Jean Rouch. Back in Mali from 1981 he works as a filmmaker and director of the Centre National de production Cinématographique and makes his first film „Sécheresse et exode rural“. In 1995 he directs „Guimba“ and in 1999 „La Génèse“, which both get awarded at FESPACO, followed by the film „Battu“, a film based on a novel by Aminata Sow Fall, for which he receives the RFI-price at FESPACO in 2001.

He establishes the film production company „Kora Film“ in Mali.
As President of the political party Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l'indépendance (SADI) Sissako gets appointed Minister of Culture in 2002. In September 2007 he resigns form this position.

Sissoko’s Filmography

  • Ecole malienne (1982),  
  • Les audiothèques rurales (1983),  
  • Sécheresse et Exode rural (1985),  
  • Nyamanton, la leçon des ordures (1986),  
  • Finzan (1989),  
  • Etre jeune à Bamako (1992),  
  • L’Afrique bouge (1992),  
  • Problématique de la malnutrition (1993),  
  • Guimba (The tyrant) (1995),
  • La Genèse (1999),
  • Battu (2000),
  • Scenarios from The Sahel (2001- with Idrissa Ouedraogo)
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