Released in Ouagadougou, where it has turned out to be Burkina’s biggest box-office hit, Cotonou (Nov) and Dakar (Dec), Silmande has been boycotted by the Lebanese-owned Ivoirian movie theatres which constitute over half the country’s first-run screens. The Lebanese community claims to be slandered in certain scenes and has lodged two complaints to get the film banned. Pierre Yameogo had already come up against fierce resistance in African film’s usual funding channels, even though in reality, the film judiciously avoids stereotypes.
Corruption deals line the pockets of the highest bidders on the small Ouagadougou scene as African politicians and Lebanese business men excel themselves defending their own interests under the watchful eyes of the vultures. Chronicling life in a contemporary African metropolis, Silmande (whirlwind, in Moré, and also the name of the biggest hotel in Ouagadougou) closely follows the commercial and emotional whirlwinds of a Lebanese family exiled in Africa and of a series of characters whose lives pulsate at the rhythm of the city setting.
The film is in the same vein that made Pierre Yameogo’s previous films successful, and reflects his definition of filmmaking : « broaching specific social realities to shake things up ». Avoiding a purely descriptive realism, he films characters who are rich in history, their own histories, giving an interior view of day-to-day life that endows his films with a certain theatricality in the positive sense of the word : they give form to reality. And it is a harsh reality, namely the lack of understanding between communities and the corruption perpetrated by the economic and political powers.
Tourbillon’s Lebanese characters are not villains or puppets, they are real flesh and blood men and women who bear the scars of their history of exile and integration into a foreign society. The African characters also bear the frustrations and anger of their daily existences. No one is the « nice guy » in these completely human confrontations, which gives this profoundly political film – political in the sense that it does not denounce from afar, but depicts the conflicts and contradictions of a society trying to advance at first hand – its real value. The filmmaker simply accompanies this movement to better accentuate it, adapting his rhythm to its complexities, and his metaphors to the harsh realities. It is a refreshing alternative to the ultimately quasi-Lepenist « everybody’s rotten » discourse of films like Vidange (Jean-Pierre Mockey’s latest film). Silmande is an up-to-date and necessary film that dots its ‘i’s with a good dose of humour.
1988, 1 h 25, cinematographer : Jean Clave, sound : Emmanuel de Soria, editor : Jean Dubreuil, music : Wasis Diop, with Abdoulaye Komboudri – the priceless « Jem’enfous » (« Idon’tgiveadamn ») – Stiti, Anne Roussel, Doua Sidibe.///Article N° : 5328