Abderrahmane Sissako (BAMAKO) has established himself as one of Africa's leading filmmakers. This hypnotic tone poem confirms Sissako's talent for capturing the essence of a particular place through evocative imagery, low-key comedy, and close observation of everyday life. In this case, the place is a spectacularly isolated, wind-scoured cluster of adobe buildings perched on a bleached desert plain that ends abruptly at the blue ocean. The lives of its inhabitants, in keeping with this austere environment, are pared down to two basic choices: adaptation or exile. In the latter category is Abdallah, a citified college student who temporarily returns home and, unable to speak or dress like a native, becomes painfully, comically alienated. Opposed to him is Khatra, an alert, curious boy apprenticed to the wizardly local electrician, who demonstrates how apparent oppositions (such as magic/technology, globalization/village life) might be reconciled through improvisation and patience. The precision of Sissako's compositions evokes Antonioni and Ozu, but the loose narrative structure is closer to Altman and Wenders. WAITING FOR HAPPINESS spins its overlapping stories and intersecting characters into a prismatic cascade of enigmas, epiphanies, deadpan gags, and haunting images. J. Hoberman of THE VILLAGE VOICE described the film as 'refreshing… as welcome as a cool breeze on a summer afternoon' and David Parkinson of EMPIRE declared 'it's impossible to remain unmoved.'
4 STARS… Visually intense, emotionally rich. ----Harper Barnes, ST. LOUIS DISPATCH
LOVELY… [a] gem of a picture. ----Elvis Mitchell, THE NEW YORK TIMES