The history of film is so rich that there are always titles ripe for rediscovery. Each year, fascinating slices of cinema are restored for new audiences to enjoy, and one of the latest films to enjoy such a rerelease is Ousmane Sembène’s Mandabi.
In a stunning new 4K restoration, this hidden 1968 gem – widely considered to be the first film ever made in an African language – tells the story of Ibrahima (Makhourédia Guèye), an unemployed Sengalese Muslim who receives a money order for 25,000 francs from his nephew in Paris. As Ibrahima faces countless hurdles and several levels of Sengalese bureaucracy to obtain the money, he finds himself spending money he does not have in his attempts to cash the cheque.
Under its deceptively simple surface, the film explores themes of neocolonialism, religion, corruption, and relationships in Senegalese society. But even taken at surface level, this charming and minimalist comedy/drama tells a simple tale with beautiful visuals and wonderful performances. Adapted from his own novella, Sembène’s film won the Grand Jury prize at the Venice Film Festival and fulfilled the filmmaker’s dream “to restore Africa’s stories to Africans”.
Mandabi is a stunning film filled with humour and heart, and one that film fans will be very grateful to see re-released. Following a limited theatrical run in select cinemas across the UK, this gorgeous restoration is now available on digital platforms, DVD, and Blu-ray from StudioCanal and is an essential part of any serious film buff’s collection.