Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bamako (2006)


Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Writer:    Abderrahmane Sissako
Cast:       Aissa Maiga, Tiecoura Traore, Maimouna Helene
Language: French, Bambara, English


The film depicts a trial taking place in Bamako,  the capital of Mali, amid the daily life that is going on in the city. The two sides argue whether the World Bank and IMF are guided by special interest of developed nations, or whether it is corruption and the individual nations' mismanagement, that is guilty of the current financial states of many poverty-stricken African countries as well as the rest of the poor underdeveloped world.

The central idea of the film, aid given to African countries which end up as debt in their balance sheet does more harm to these countries and their people than good, has been tackled in mainstream media prior to this and there have been books devoted to the same. The film conveys this idea in a play like fashion with the fake court procedure. It doesn't quite descend into the age old debate of Capitalism Vs Socialism and those who are making the case against the banks states the importance of public institutions like schools, hospitals, transportation etc for the prosperity of their people. Giving them loans and insisting on privatization of these things do more harm than good. 

The book 'Why Nations Fail' provides the best explanation for why many of the poor nations remain poor. It states that capitalism is indeed the best solution but for it to succeed, you need strong institutions and property reforms to ensure that there is enough at stake for the people to make democracy work. If that is not the case, then whatever the development banks try to push through as structural reforms will end up enriching the private contractors from developed world and the elite of the poor countries. It will do fuck all good for the people. I am not in the camp which states that IMF, World Bank etc are pursuing this as an agenda but this is how it ends up and you have decades of evidence for the same. What you see looking from outside is continuation of imperialism but this time in the financial form and you end up with issues like terrorism and immigration. It is a bit rich of developed countries to complain about these issues when they have a very big hand in the creation of the same. If you are so adamant about globalization with free movement of capital, then why balk at the prospect of immigration which is essentially free movement of labor.

Overall the film is a good watch but I didn't care much for the non-court scenes in the film and its symbolism which included a Western genre film within the film. There are better documentaries dealing with the same issue and one episode in Adam Curtis' 'Pandora's Box' which essentially deals with the same topic in a more informed manner. But a feature film will always attract more attention if done well and this managed to do so by getting released at Cannes film festival. 

Rating: 3/5