Nah fala makes for the same kind of happy viewing as a Jacques Demy musical. Manu Dibango’s songs are full of life, the dance scenes make you want to get up and dance too. There are lively colours everywhere, even for insignificant wallpapers used as a decor. The film really takes off when we learn that Vita, who is leaving to continue her studies in Europe, is not allowed to sing because her family is afflicted with a curse whereby anyone who attempts to sing is doomed to die. The effectiveness of the suspense created in this scene is that it never really eases until the end of the film. Following an opening full of song and dance, we become aware of the terrible drama of this curse. Nah fala is in essence a single joyous invitation to raise our voices, to speak out and as the closing number says dare. « What can you do when someone prevents you from going forward? You have to dare! When you want to make love a second time, you have to dare! » The film opens with a funeral procession performed by the schoolchildren for their parrot who could only say « Silence! ». The children appear at the end of the film too everything is cyclical in this film. However, the cycle passes through a different experience, the confrontation with another place, another way of seeing things, and maybe even rejection as is suggested in comical fashion by the old man dancing with Vita’s other neighbours in Paris. He repeats over and over, « I don’t like blacks! »
Flora Gomes has stepped beyond the much-used call to action film and uses music that speaks louder than words to tell use that we have to stop being scared. In fact, this is the theme of the hit CD that Vita records with the Parisian musician she falls in love with. « Fear grips you – devours you – and you no longer have a friend in yourself ».
Should we take this to mean that we have to make the journey to Europe in order to be free? In a nutshell, where do we seek the strength to dare? Two crazy characters run through the film. They are carrying a statue of Amilcar Cabral and need a place to put it. They only find a pedestal for it at the end of the film, when everyone dares to sing, and after everyone has refused the statue, shutting their doors and windows in time to the music. By drawing attention to the man who was both the brain behind the independence movement and a freedom fighter, Gomes’ film represents historical continuity from resistance to colonisation, reminding us that we do not have to seek very hard to uncover the masterminds of dis-alienation, if we make an effort to look into our own culture. However, Gomes also places Nah fala, as he did his previous film, Po di Sangui, within the context of the great mixing of peoples the closing number finishes with « What do we have to do to be together and different? We have to dare! »
Nah fala features actors from Flora Gomes’ previous films with a star performance by the remarkable Fatou Ndiaye, famous for his role in the made-for-TV movie Fatou la Malienne. Her performance was never excessive but she had a powerful presence, largely due to her facial expressiveness and easy gestures that belied nothing of the fact that she had had to learn Guinean Creole and singing for the film!
This is a beautiful and unpretentious film, full of a sincere love of life that infects us with a very real desire to get up and dance.
2002, 35 mm, colour, 90 min. Camera: Edgar Moura, Music: Manu Dibango. With Fatou N’Diaye, Jean-Christophe Doll, Angelo Torres, Bia Gomes. Les Films de mai (0033-1-43570701). Official programme, Venice Film Festival 2002.///Article N° : 5649