Sembene's second feature unlocked for the first time the complex daily world of modern Africa. This story of a man who receives a money order and, in his attempts to cash it, encounters an intimidating barrage of Third World bureaucracy, becomes a witty, masterful portrait of an ancient civilization in the throes of change.
Receiving the dubious windfall at first seems a blessing to Ibrahima Dieng, who lives with his two wives and their seven children. However, as the tale unfolds, the seemingly easy transaction threatens to destroy the traditional fabric of his life. Quickly, the whole neighborhood becomes aware of it, the wives buy provisions on credit, their parents ask for a share and people try to extort him for money - all the while, his attempts to cash the piece of paper turn futile.
MANDABI is a warm, subtle comedy with a series of visual revelations about a civilization struggling to recapture its own rich heritage after a century of colonial corruption.
Like many men in late-1960s Dakar, Ibrahima Dieng (Makhouredia Gueye) has been without a job for years. With nine mouths to feed--two wives and seven children--he could use a break. One day, he receives a letter from his nephew Abdou in Paris. Enclosed is a mandabi
, or money order, for 25,000 francs. The funds are to be divided between several family members. Trying to cash it, however, quickly becomes a comedy of errors. First, Dieng needs to secure an identity card, then a birth certificate, and so forth (the fact that he can't read certainly doesn't help). Meanwhile, word has been spreading about his good fortune and everyone wants a piece. Ousmane Sembene's follow-up to Black Girl
--and first in the Wolof dialect--uses humor to depict the plight of a proud and simple man caught between two worlds, an ineffectual colonial past and a corrupt bureaucratic present. --Kathleen C. Fennessy