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Banel & Adama 12A

Ramata-Toulaye Sy, Senegal, France, Mali, 2023, 87m.

Banel and Adama are fiercely in love. The young couple live in a remote village in northern Senegal and for them, nothing else in the world exists. However, their perfect everlasting love seems on a collision course with their family’s traditions. Adama is pressured to take the position of village chief, but Banel and Adama have different plans - that is until something in the air shifts. A drought strikes and the cattle begin to die, changing everything. Award-winning filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s breathtaking and lyrical debut feature follows the fated lovers in their quest to carve a life for themselves beyond the expectations of others. The film premiered in Competition at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, making Sy only the second Black woman in the history of the festival to do so.

The Garden Cinema View:

Despite a familiar Romeo and Juliet setup, Banel & Adama quickly shifts into a distinct narrative. There is, of course, young love in the face of familial opposition, but this is rooted in structural (the requirements of the village) and elemental (the drought) forces, rather than rivalry. Sy, perhaps still wedded to her short form process, connects the stakes of the romance and village work through several poetic sequences: the uncovering of buried dwelling being a particularly powerful motif. The resulting film is beautiful if a little slight. And the fate of the lovers is less tragic than it is evocative of Banel’s general frustration with life within a rigid patriarchal system which is both incompatible with her dream and useless in the face of climate disaster.

Khady Mane, Mamadou Diallo

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