Bamako (2006)

Bamako is a passion, challenging drama directed by the Mauritania born, Abderrahmane Sissako. The film is co-produced by Archipelago 33, Arte France cinema, Mali Images, New York Times, and Louverture Films. The film was first released at 21 May  2006 in Cannes, 14 October 2006 in France, and 14 February 2007 in Manhattan, United States. The films starring are Aïssa Maïga (Mele) and Tiécoura Traoré (Chaka), and its filming location is Bamako, Mali. The film is based using French Language and Bambara with a ruining time of 1 hour 55 minutes. Since its release, Bamako has won three awards including Best French-Language Film and Audience award (2007).

Plot Synopsis

Bamako depicts a trial that takes place in the home of cabaret singer Mele and Chaka. Returning from work, Mele finds her house changed into a tribunal in which the institutions of international capitalism are put on trial. Mele is a night club singer while her husband Chaka is unemployed. Chaka is responsible for taking care of their sick daughter, Ina and he has resorted to studying Hebrews hoping that he will get employed as a guard at the embassy of Israel at Mali. This is a notion he has held for a long time and bearing in mind that Israel has not yet to open an embassy, his friends find this notion hilarious.  As the trial progresses, there are debates on whether the institutions of international capitalism are guided special interests of the developed nations or its the corruption and mismanagement of developing countries. Through the movie, as the trial progresses, the ordinary life of the town, Bamako, is revealed from the speeches made by the lawyers as well as the witnesses of the trial. Within the compound, women can be seen going about their normal routine practices of tying and dying cloth, while children play official documents. Besides, the movie portrays the life of Mele and Chaka which is full of drama due to the fact that Chaka is unemployed. The sister to Mele, Djénéba Koné, can be seen pleading to the international banking cabal along peasants and other citizens. The whole present a long night in pursuit of justice juxtaposed with the Malian life.

The theme of African Development

The central theme of the Bamako film is African development explained from the perspective of financial independence. With most African countries having the tag of developing and underdeveloped countries, Abderrahmane Sissako wants the view of the film to understand the financial situation of Africa. For overtime, African countries have been receiving financial aid from international monetary institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. However, it is not clear whether the financial aid given to most African countries are put under the right use. In essence, the aim of the financial aid given to African countries is to improve development. The sad thing is that it is not clear whether African citizens benefit from these aids. With the struggles, the citizens are going through and the rate of unemployment in Mali, as portrayed in the film, it is evident that the financial aid in Mali is not utilized well- it does not reach to the citizens. The citizens are going through a lot of distress due to increased debt Mali owes, which leads to the question of whether the World Bank or the IMF  should carry the blame. As depicted from the film and from the arguments in the trial, African governments, Mali being a representation, have failed in prioritization for social services, health and education leaving their citizens in extreme poverty.


The cinematography if the Bamako can be well explained through the mise-en-scene that Sissako uses to mirror the stagnancy of Milan development. The hazy sunlight provides the lighting which is used to develop individual characters. For instance, in the scene where Mele is in the club singing, the room is darkly light. Sissako uses dark lighting in the case to present Mele as a character who is going through internal struggles. Mele has to balance between her job, her sick daughter, and unemployed husband. In the same scene, Sissako is in shadow. The camera used to film Bamako keeps on changing perspectives and focus.  It does not focus on a scene for a couple of minutes. This is a depiction that the country and Africa at large is facing a lot of economic struggles that need to be addressed

Critical Review

Ideally, trial movies can be painful, but Sissako has taken  Bamako to another different level filled with moments of beauty and humor. The film is an attack on globalization told from the African perspective. The theoretical debates about the state of the world and the and the life of everyday  Africans, I can only talk of the movie to feel like a blast of sanity. Beyond globalization,  it is right to say that Bamako provides a broad perspective of language instruction as well as administrative concerns. More than anything I have seen before, the premise and the structure of Bamako is brilliant. The fact that Sissako has incorporated a narrative method and introduces new situations without giving contexts makes one develop a sense of constant disorientation. Besides, it makes one develop a need to watch the film. Thus, one would talk of Bamako as nothing more than wishful fulfillment. That is, an indictment of the international financial institutions or the type of trial many people would wish to see happening but it cannot, and it is not happening any time soon.