GuelwaarReleased in 1992, Guelwaar is the name of the movie directed by Africa’s one of the best-known filmmaker, Ousmane Sembene. This is the seventh film of Sembene, who has so much to say about the contemporary Africa that you emerge from it with a sense of understanding from every corner of the society. “Guelwaar” is the name of a man who is dead at the beginning of the film. Guelwaar is a political activist and catholic figurehead. About.
The general impression among the public is that he was a peace loving person but politically he was active unto the extent that he was a district leader of Senegal who used to make fiery speeches against the foreign aid and its attendant corruption. “Guelwaar” is in fact the story of his funeral. As the news of his death spreads, his family gathers.
The older son flies home from France; a daughter who works as prostitute returns from Dakar; and the youngest son is still in the village. Then there is a problem. His disappears from morgue.Sembene uses this disappearance, and the search for the body, to tell us a story about modern Senegal, which is a former French colony on the west coast of Africa, with a population of about 8 million. In the district where the story takes place, the majority of people is Islamic, but there are a good number of Roman Catholic minorities, including Guelwaar family.
At first it is suspected that the body has been snatched by members of fetishistic cult but later on it is found that the body of Guelwaar has been confused with a dead Muslim and has already been buried in the Islamic cemetery.There are three interrelated stories in the film. The first detective story – about the corpse – reveals the deep religious hostilities in the country. When it’s discovered that his body was, due to an administrative blunder buried in an Islamic graveyard, the dead Muslim’s people refuse to ‘desecrate’ the cemetery, and return the body.Most of the movie is taken up with the stand-off of the two peoples in which blind intransigence quickly gives way to a violence which is only neutered when the army are called in. it is unclear whether this is a justification for military visibility – the chief policeman is one of the few sane, non-corrupt characters in the film. Much is made of the irony that each clan proclaims the authenticity of a religion originating thousands of miles away.The second detective story – who killed Guelwaar – again takes the narrative away from the local.
It is clear that Guelwaar was a threat to local and international interests, both politically and religiously – at a ceremony celebrating the receipt of foreign aid, he delivers an incendiary speech denouncing his country’s craven dependence on others. It is hard to disagree – none of the strong men in the area seem to do any work, the lands remain un harvested; civic dignitaries line their pockets, and their daughters become bread-winning prostitutes at a socially convenient distance. This is a pleasant, anti-Catch-22 state of affairs – the first world retain virtual power after colonialism; the locals get rich. Guelwaar is in serious danger of disrupting it.
He has to be removed.This is all very instructive in an educational kind of way, but would be rather dull as film drama in itself. There is a real thrill when the foreign aid van is seized, its supplies sabotaged and trod on, as hagiography can be rather unpalatable. The third detective story complicates this. Who was Guelwaar? He was certainly an inspiring, charismatic, articulate leader. But he was also a bullying patriarch who diminished his wife and was quite content for his daughter to whore herself for his dinner.Unlike most political films, which can be very macho, Sembene records female experience in such a society, in which rigid social and religious rules keep women at home while their men fornicate freely.
Although the film ends with Guelwaar the heroic, the progression of the four flashbacks is more difficult. The first suggests his involvement in thuggish political violence. The second shows his contempt for his wife and family responsibilities. The third shows his taste for ‘freedom’ was more sexual than political. Only in the fourth do we get any idea of Guelwaar’s nominal nobility, by which time our taste for rhetoric, as opposed to action, has worn thin.
Surely the idea that two peoples, adhering to foreign religions, and fighting over a corpse, is irony enough.So far, so Western. This narrative has other familiar trajectories – the uniting of a scattered family; the power and role of language, colonial and local; the transformation of a Western-educated son into a Senegalese patriot. The satire of bureaucracy and corruption can be very funny. The great pleasure of ‘Guelwaar’, however, is its digressions from the narrative, when it slows down to record a way of life.In conclusion this can be said that the film is astonishingly beautiful. The serene African landscape is a backdrop for the struggle over the cemetery and the serene colors of the landscape frame the bright colors of the African costumes.
We see something of the way the people live and what their values are and how their traditional ways interact with the new forms of the government. It is joy to listen the dialogue, in which intelligent people seriously discuss important matters.Sembene’s message is thought provoking. He does not blame the hunger and poverty of Senegal on buzzwords like colonialism or racism. He says that they have come because self-respect has been worn away by 30 years of living off foreign aid. Like many stories that are set in a very specific time and place, this one has universal implications.All in all, a nice movie to watch.References· Name of the Movie : – Guelwaar· Director : Ousmane Sembene· Year of Release : 1992· Runtime : 115 minutes· Language : French/ Wolof· Country : Senegal