Banel & Adama’s review: Ramata Toulaye Sy’s debut is interesting, but perhaps a little too biased towards formal appearance. Strident in a film that would offer much more instinctive cues. In competition at Cannes 2023.
The wind blows on the dry sand, on the yellow leaves. The warm wind blows, and he discovers the ripples of a distant world, inaccessible to oriental thought, and for this reason deliberately disconnected from our gaze. Whether it’s a critical look, or a dispassionate look. The same look (interesting, no doubt about it) of the Senegalese-French director Ramata Toulaye Sywho in his debut film, Banel & Adamsplays with human geography and with colored geography, cleaving the African panorama (we are somewhere in Senegal) with bright chromatic tones: purple, yellow, blue, emerald green.
An aesthetic game of complacent beauty, for a focal and humoral contrast. After all, Banel & Adamspresented in Competition a Cannes 2023, is the most classic of the first works of a potential author. Indeed, in this case, by an author. Auburn Toulaye Sy cares about his characters, cares about the frame, measures the volume by restricting instinct and belly as much as possible, and therefore making the waiting for the rain by two protagonists in love, who whisper as if they were their two sonorous and somehow biblical names are one. Precisely, Banel and Adama.
Waiting for the rain
Without a doubt, Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s is a film that demonstrates a certain talent. The director, born in 1986, graduated from the prestigious “La Femis”, immediately sets the record straight, without ever hiding the aesthetic mannerism that will accompany the work, and therefore already of backlighting, details, crossing hands, of sighs and wide fields, which linger on an ancestral and barren landscape, yet made into a kind of scenic boutique. At the heart of the story, the intense love between Banel (Khady Amane) and Adama (Mamadou Dallo). An intense love, lived even more intensely by Banel, who wants nothing more than to spend time with the groom, as well as targeting poor creatures with his slingshot club, as if to reject any form of life other than that of her husband .
The groom who rejects his destiny as village chief, provoking the ire of the village and the discontent of his mother. Because there are obligations, centuries-old laws, rooted in a distant culture, as well as suggestive and decidedly controversial. On the one hand love, on the other a rejection. The same waste that will lead, according to beliefs, to a terrible drought, threatening the very existence of the village.
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Panel & AdamSo it’s sort of African fairy tale, aestheticized by Ramata-Toulaye Sy in an undoubtedly elegant cinema, as well as refined and meticulously diluted to the millilitre. A structure without wrinkles, correct in the visual rules (turns you turn the comparison always goes there: Terence Malick), and even brutal in the turns that, courageously, do not bother to make Banel a protagonist who is sometimes repulsive, out of turn in her repressed (but justified) unhappiness, in its incompleteness.
And yet, while the impeccable sequences are set to music by a natural soundtrack (the wind, the birds), the African scenario itself becomes all too pre-established, and artificially structured for that appearance which inevitably surpasses substance. Also because, as mentioned at the beginning, the substance would be there. Starting with the powerful symbolism relating to drought, and therefore to fertility, and consequently in the stylization of the female figure. A hint too fleeting, and sacrificed in the name of an aesthetic emphasized but disconnected from the deafening drama put in place.
Banel & Adama, as written in our review, is an interesting and elegant debut in its structure. However, the excessive aesthetic gaze penalizes the substance of a powerful story in its subdued language, and therefore not very inclined to the narrative medium.
Because we like it
- The chromatic choices, but perhaps for their own sake.
- The drought metaphor…
- … not too developed.
- The aesthetic fascinates, but is redundant in the long run.