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The embers of European imperialism have yet to cool in much of Africa, but in the seaside post-French-colonial village of Poponguine, Senegal, the results of cultural colonization were as soft as candlelight and as animated as James Brown. That is the photo that Moussa Sene Absa created in the 1993 movie Ça Twiste à Poponguine, his celebration of the time when his home, a traditional African village in the 1960's, underwent integration of American and French cultural influences. Absa remembers that time through the hero Bacc, a young native, who without a mother or father, is raised by a community of growing pluralism. Bacc's notable everyday activities consist of going to school where the kids learn French from M. Benoit (sent from France to continue French integration), and running errands for older children in a street-wise hustler fashion, bearing his private interests above the rest. The plot focuses on rival teen cliques during the Christmas season of 1964: the Kings, who own the town's only record player, but had no girls; and the Inseparables or `Ins', who had no record player, but had women - `and that was key,' notes Bacc. Every group hoped to attain what the another had, and Bacc plays every group in order to forward his own causes, unexpectedly resulting in a raucous between the gangs, and the conflagration of one gang's hangout. But with no serious injuries, the happenings that transpire lead to a greater unity in the community and a generally feel-good film that deals lightly but appropriately with the problems of cultural colonization.Absa gracefully touches on hard issues, like Africa's forgotten identity and European-American view of Africa through Social Darwinism, by proportioning the seriousness of those problems to their results on the everyday lives of characters in the movie. Dame Castiloor, the village's mother-of-all, a Vodun practitioner, a symbol of both traditional culture and the maternal role, talks to Bacc about his education. Although he is learned in French history, the Dame encourages him to revive the history of Africa. On a previous night, children gather to hear the Dame say a fairy tale about the small dwarf with a gourd full of gold. The dwarf blocks the street from passers-by, challenging them to fight. The Dame asks why, and Bacc answers that if a knight should conquer him he would become the richest of all, but if he loses he will be cursed and remain terrible and blind, wifeless and childless. 'The losers will have no control over the future of their world,' it seems to say, in one of the most cryptic (and most memorable) scenes of the film.One hard stage to bear is one which Benoit, inebriated, concludes that if Africa colonized Europe, Europe would have lost all culture. Benoit, in his state of drunkenness does not represent his own real beliefs, but the general colonial attitude; in his lucid moments, he is merely other displaced person in find of his own zone in the world, as shown in a dialogue between him and a Muslim notable, spoken in Woloff. Benoit's desire to leave Poponguine continues to grow as he feels more and more an outsider, despite various figures of authority in the village who want him to stay; when he is finally integrated into the village, it is not by the pontifications and prayers of religious figures Perè Joseph or El Hadj Gora, but by the singing of Dame Castiloor and the children. Although the problems may seem somewhat coarse in writing, Absa puts them in action without forcing the concept through extreme camerawork or manipulation of the characters; the concepts flow naturally through the storyline and the characters' symbolic meaning, so that the average viewer will not be place off by the issues, and the less-than-average viewer may not even perceive many of them (the sign that reads "Popenguine").There are uncountable moments of nearly imperceptible pokes and prods at the actual state of affairs in Poponguine, one being the joke mentioned in the previous paragraph. The boy who approaches Benoit talks of a `beautiful black boy' his wife just gave birth to, which gotta not be Benoit's child, he jokes. Even as a joke, it can imply that in the traditional group-oriented African village, a child's father is each boy in the village; boys can take multiple wives in accordance with local Islamic practice. The concepts held by such notables are held in contrast to the concepts of the teens. For example, Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday of the `Ins' group have a relationship based on romance and monogamy, which annoys Otis Redding of the `Kings' because as the cousin of Otis, Sylvie could be promised to him in the traditional manner. This shows the shift from dominant Islam to Christianity possible in the upcoming generation, but like many concepts presented in the movie, the viewer has the freedom to create those connections and inferences.The freedom that the viewer has to create connections and inferences, and think more deeply about the problems of the film is what makes Moussa Sene Absa's Ça Twiste à Poponguine more enjoyable than American mainstays of the socio-cultural genre. The camerawork is tastefully understated and carefully considered, as is the editing. Never does a stage seem to drag on, and the scenes that are building to something are spiced with a dashes of humor, such as the stage at Ginette's when one of the young adults is talking about sexual encounters with a drowsy girl to Benoit, whose worsening condition as a lonely drinker is being presented in this scene. The subtlety of so many problems and concepts makes this film a joy to watch, its worry-free presentation allows one to watch again in order to pick up on subtle implications and decipher the symbolic meaning of characters. Altogether a cheerful tribute to his childhood home, Absa's Ça Twiste à Poponguine will lighten the heart as you witness a film that itself symbolizes the relatively smooth cultural transition of Poponguine.
Ca Twiste a Popenguine is film that focuses on the results of colonization in Senegal. This is a very necessary subject. Moussa Sene Absa shows the influences of the French and American cultures on the traditional Wolof culture of Popenguine. Absa does a nice job of showing the difference in the older and younger generations and how they deal with the fresh cultures. The older folks in the village wear traditional clothing and receive frustrated with the youth for "wanting to be white." While the teenagers and children in the village wear modern clothes, listen to French and American pop music, and even select French and American nicknames. He also does a great job of showing how Benoit feels, being a Frenchman in a Wolof city. He knows Popenguine is not his home, but he feels he has been there too long to be agreed by France anymore.For a western viewer, the storyline is somewhat difficult to follow. I had a bit of problem understanding the interactions between the characters, especially the narrator's deal with The Kings, and the conversations between the members of The In's. I also want that the Wolof spoken would have been translated. I wanted to know everything that was being said, not just what was told in French. I suggest this film for anyone interested in Senegal or colonization. It does a very great job of showing how the various cultures mesh. However, those that oppose colonization or those with an overwhelming sense of patriotism and would like to see total colonization of a culture may not play this movie. This film was filmed in African, with African actors, and directed by an African. So if foreign movies or films portraying very various cultures are not your thing, I would suggest staying away from this one.Overall, I think this was a nice movie. It does wonders in showing the results of colonization and how various cultures can come together and agree every other. Although it was difficult to follow at some points, it has a nice message and was definitely worth watching.
Cultural mathematics might not be your thing, but in writer/director Moussa Sene Absa's 1994 movie Ca Twiste a Popenguine, he portrays the influence of the American and French cultures upon the peoples of the city of Popenguine, Senegal during the mid-1960's. Absa does a nice job of showing this cultural mix by focusing on a struggle between two cliques of teenagers and adds just enough humor to hold the movie on a light note and interesting. The cliques have similarities in that they have both forsaken their parents' traditional garb for more Western/European styles and they listen to artists such as James Brown and Jimmy Hendrix. What separates the two groups involves what they have and don't have. The "Kings" have the only record user in town, but no women in their group. The "Inseparables" have the girls, but no record player. Absa also shows the influence of the French colonialism with the school teacher Mr. Benoit who is sent from France to teach the kids of Popenguine French language and literature. A subplot involves his struggles and acceptance by the townspeople. The current conflict between the two groups, the Lords and the Ins, is the main story of the movie and Absa uses that story to convey the theme that involves the changing from the native African Wolof culture brought on by the influence of American and French culture to a mixed culture.Absa's test of untrained actors/actresses works well in this movie by giving it a flavor of reality. I would suggest this film to anyone interested in seeing things from a non-western mission of view or anyone wanting to see how various cultures interact and intertwine. If you do not like subtitled/foreign films, I would not suggest this film unless you have a grasp of the French language. There is some fun poked at the differences involving Islam and Christianity, so if you are not tolerant or can't search humor in religion, you may be slightly offended.This was my first totally subtitled foreign film, so once I became accustomed to that aspect I really enjoyed the movie and appreciated Absa's sense of humor.
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