Melwood Screening Room: May 14 @ 7:00 PM
2010/Netherlands/India/Mali/Director: Sander Francken/94 min.
Cast: Abba Bilancoro, Kolado Bocoum and Dhamender Singh (Language: Hindi with English subtitles)
Festivals and Awards: London Asian
Driven by his curiosity in other cultures and the mysteries of human nature, Sander Francken delivers a captivating trilogy of folk tales. Each story is based on a folk song from a non-Western culture and shows that it is the old wisdom which unites people.
A feast for the eyes and ears, this rare film is a three-part harmony of third-world stories, each sung by a local group or singer while locals act out the tale. The tales are rooted in the Hindu culture in Rajasthan, the Muslim culture in Mali and the Buddhist culture in Ladakh.
The musicians are nothing short of masters, featuring Rajastan stringed instrument players, a West African guitarist singing to the water at sunset, and a duet of singers in a tent in Ladakh (part of Kashmir in the Indian Himalayas).
The first tale, a rather nuanced account of Karma, is a recycler’s tale. Filmed in the blue city of Jodhpur, various misfortunes befall the man and his son every day as the skeptical townspeople wonder what bad karma is following them. Still, something positive always happens as the plastic collector refuses to pass judgment on whatever comes to pass.
The second tale takes us to Djenne in Muslim Mali, Africa, where a ten-year-old boy turns to the men at the mosque for wisdom and guidance. In order to pass onto his next grade, he must answer find the answer to the question, “What is the largest part of knowledge?” While seeking this wisdom, the story is narrated in music by the griot Afel Bocoum as the day comes to an end near the riverside.
Finally, Francken takes us on a road journey through the little known Ladakh area, a Tibet-like place that has only been open to outsiders since the 1970’s. The music follows a man and his daughter on an increasingly strange journey to a bigger town to sell their dzo, a rare hybrid between a cow and a yak.
Illustrating the ethnic tales of ancient oral tradition with loving and powerful directing while casting local actors from these far-away lands, Francken exemplifies “the contrast of transience and permanence, of the eternal and the ephemeral.”