Ousmane Review

Ousmane cover
AKA: Deweneti
Genre: Slice-of-Life/Drama/Neorealism
Year Released: 2006
Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: Senegal/France
Running Time: 15 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: G

Related Films/Series: N/A

For Fans Of: The Accordion, Slumdog Millionaire, Duma, Hop (French film)
Notes:

-This short film is streaming on YouTube.

Fun Facts:


-Senegalese-French director Dyana Gaye was responsible for this film. She has also directed Under the Starry Sky, Saint Louis Blues, and Paris la Metisse to name a few. She acted in Code 68.

-Sound designer Romain Lebras has composed music for Psycho Motion, Kino, and The Cell.


Yes! I got to cover another country that’s part of my geography goal. This time around, we’ll be checking out the cinema of Senegal. It’s a West African nation where the main languages are Wolof and French (the former is the main one spoken in this film) and the capital is Dakar. There are two names I can think of who are associated with this country. The most obvious one is the singer Akon who’s Senegalese-American and lived in both countries. A much better name that came from that nation is historian/author Cheikh Anta Diop. Seriously, if you want to know about the precolonial history of Africa and want information you’re not going to get in school or textbooks, then PLEASE read his works. Trust me on this, you’ll thank me later. 

Now without further ado, it’s time to cover a story about a boy and his unorthodox desire to get wishes for himself and others.

Ousmane takes place in the bustling capital city of Dakar where a boy of the same name is going around asking for charity from others. Whether they be policemen, restaurant owners, teachers, and imams, he asks for some cutter to survive. Instead of just taking whatever money and running off, he wishes and prays for each person he meets. Ousmane does have a goal for using that money. Instead of using it just to get whatever he wants, he wants it to be put to good use. Minor spoiler alert: The person in question lives way up north.

This was a quirky little film. I thought this would be poverty porn fodder at first with the title character asking for alms, but I did not expect that film to take the turn it did into something more lighthearted albeit without being superficial. Ousmane’s journey became more intriguing by the minute and with some people willing to support him. Even when he doesn’t get money, Ousmane wanting to pray for the people he meets was a sweet touch. What really made it stand out was the ending when he talks to a letter writer and remembering everything and everybody he wished well. That was a nice attention to detail and it was mildly funny seeing him trying to make those wishes come true. One can argue that what he did was unrealistic, but since he’s a child, it makes sense why he would think the way that he did. I couldn’t fault him for wanting what’s best for others. Besides the story, the film was a nice touch of neorealism. I can tell that Jafar Panahi may have been an influence on this work, but there’s no copying his style or narrative technique. There was enough originality going on especially with the plot which I lauded.

Ousmane had a few shortcomings though. While the poverty element wasn’t played for cheap sympathy, I could see this being a bit of a turnoff for anyone not familiar with Senegal or Africa as a whole. There is one major plot aspect that certainly threw me off and it was the existence of the letter writer. It’s crazy because he plays a very integral part of the finale, but why the heck is he using a typewriter in 2006? Unless this was a period piece, then I don’t see how or why the letter writer couldn’t use a computer even in that country’s standards. Shoot, typewriters were already obsolete when I was the main character’s age and younger, so I fail to see why the technology couldn’t be updated. While Ousmane is a neorealistic film with the production, the final shot while very poetic is extremely unrealistic if one takes it literally. I get that it tied into a very certain object one sees during Christmastime, but it does kill the realistic cinematography with the post-production.

This Senegalese film was a lighthearted watch that certainly was painless. The story has originality and a very good twist that people could enjoy. The cinematography was naturalistic without being too gritty given the subject matter. There was a nice usage of light jazz and accordion music throughout the movie, too. I wasn’t a fan of certain plot points that were integral though. Ousmane was a nice entry into Senegal’s film scene and I’ll check out more movies from that country.


Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like your drama to be lighter or just like more low-key stories.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want more realism in your neorealist movies.

Pros:
-Good soundtrack
-Creative plotting
-Subverts potential poverty porn elements

Cons:

-The typewriter is an anachronism
-Breaks neorealism elements in the ending (despite the ending being good)
-Some poverty elements could be distracting

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Warning: Ousmane is an innocuous film with barely any objectionable content. The worst things would be the title character being poor and how one local teacher gets kids to give him money so he can go to Mecca.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Ousmane is property of Dyana Gaye. The poster is from IMDb and is property of Dyana Gaye

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