This savagely funny satire portrays El Hadji, a prosperous, self-satisfied, politically crooked modern businessman who is struck down by the xala (pronounced "ha-la") - a curse rendering its victim impotent. While he chases after witch doctors and soothsayers on a frantic, often hilarious search for a cure, his impotence becomes a mirror of the powerlessness of young African nations over dependent on white technology.
Unable to consummate his third (polygamous) marriage, and neglecting his business affairs and political activities as he seeks a cure, his social stature is stripped away, leaving him shamed and humiliated. And while humorous, there is a sympathy in his downfall at the hands of others who are even more corrupt than he is.
XALA is a moving and comical look at a man caught up in the corruption of his country and the tribulations of a changing society.
Wealthy businessman and community leader El Hadji (Thierno Leye) has been known to take a bribe on occasion. He has two wives and has just taken a (much younger) third, when he succumbs to a xala
, or curse, and is unable to consummate the marriage. In his search for a cure, Hadji first loses his standing, then his fortune. Even his wives start to abandon him. He has become impotent in every sense of the word. Based on his novel of the same name, Ousmane Sembenes fourth film is unsparing in its critique of Senegalese men, like Hadji, who claim to be enemies of colonialism and defenders of "Africanity," yet insist on speaking French, consume only imported goods, and view the less fortunate as "human rubbish." As with Luis Buñuel before him, Sembene (Moolaadé
) finds the "charm of the bourgeoisie" to be very "discreet" indeed in this devastating dark comedy. --Kathleen C. Fennessy