Tasuma, le feu

By Daniel Sanou Kollo

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Tasuma depicts an engaging character and this is what constitutes both its force and its power of conviction. Sogo Sanon, a veteran forcefully conscripted into the French army to serve in Indochina and Algeria before being freed after Independence in 1963 is an exceptional man. An anti-conformist and pacifist, he is not a banner-waving ideologist, but a sensitive being who is faithful to his path, however harsh, his dignity wounded by the injustice of the difference of treatment reserved for the former tirailleur colonial conscripts in relation to their French colleagues. Above all, he shows a useful determination, investing, for the good of his village, in a mill to relieve the women of the arduous task of pounding cereals. But he does so on credit, tired of waiting for a pension that the French administration takes so long in paying.
The ensuing developments are treated by subtly using the arcane mysteries of traditional narrative, giving the film the moral force of the fable. As in Désiré Ecaré’s Visages de femmes and so many other films, the women’s song sums up the plot. But the madman too announces its developments, dividing the film into days of the week.
Sanou Kollo has lost none of the quality here that distinguished Paweogo or Jigi. The characters display a truly human corporality on the screen because they are captured in harmony with their environment, inscribed in the social corpus of the village community.
The solidarity that unites them creates a collective vibration that heightens everyone. Always framed in mid- or group shots, they constantly interact in the image. This engenders a rhythm: that of a united future, attentive to everyone’s contributions. The debates that animate the elders under the aegis of the village chief obey the oratory rules of proverbs and joking alliances.
The contrast with the superficiality of urban relationships is all the stronger, where mercantile designs and the precedence of power predominate. The village is a living entity, full of conflicts in which the customs are challenged by the very people who aspire to development – particularly Sogo, despite his age, whose confrontation with other climes has opened his eyes and guided him towards the essential.
It is here that he finds his dignity, and not in a uniform that he wears more as a testimony to what he went through than as some kind of claim to superiority. He, like the rest of his community, shares the beauty of simple folk. When he meets his companions-in-arms, it is to evoke the same old military subjects together. They do so without passing judgement, but without any illusions about these subjects either, simply convening a memory – that of a generation forced to fight without understanding, but conscious of having done so with an accomplished sense of duty.
They are completely politically aware, an awareness incarnated by Sogo. But their scars are still raw, hence this duality reflected by the mad character who insists on photographing what he sees with from his own wayward viewpoint that is nonetheless capable of teaching and foreseeing, with a lucidity that is superior to all. The transgression remains prophetic, in a village environment that appears to be anything but immemorial and unchanging.
Rhythmical and well-directed, Sanou Kollo’s new film benefits from the experienced he has gained in television where he has continued to work despite the difficulties in finishing off a film. He thus participated in the excellent Taxi-brousse series made in Benin. A fine demonstration that when local production affirms itself, a know-how emerges that gives rise to good films of universal interest.

///Article N° : 5664

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