SANGO MALO (1991) (Cameroon: 1991)

Director: Bassek Ba Kobhio

Based on the novel: Sango Malo: Le maître du canton by Bassek Ba Kobhio. L’Harmattan. 1991.

Jeanne Abanda
Epaye Monny Akwa
Daniel Bakang

Production: Atriascop

Music Score: Francis Bebey

Sango Malo offers an intimate and engaging portrait of the complex social dynamic underlying economic and political change in an African village. It argues passionately that a populist education must be a key component of any democratic, human-centered development paradigm for Africa. Bassek ba Kobhio explains why his first feature focuses on education: “It is education which can form a new people…It is hard to think about changing African society without envisioning an appropriate form of education.”

Sango Malo contrasts two views of education. The traditional headmaster represents a rigid, “Eurocentric.” curriculum designed to produce docile colonial administrators. Malo, the radical young teacher, emphasizes the practical skills needed to build a self-reliant rural community. The film illustrates Brazilian educator Paolo Freire’s celebrated distinction between an education which the ruling class uses to inculcate its values in students’ minds and one which empowers students to shape their own destiny.
Malo’s innovative ideas soon spread to the rest of the village. With his help, the peasants establish a cooperative store and a cocoa marketing cooperative which undercut the power of the village chief, store owner and priest. When Malo alienates the villagers by demanding too rapid change, his enemies call in the army which arrests and imprisons him.

But Malo has taught his lessons so well the villagers can carry on his reforms without him. In the last, open-ended shot, the camera discretely pulls back as the peasants celebrate a future they themselves will make. The narrative thrust, the responsibility for development, no longer lies with the village elite, nor the progressive schoolmaster, nor even the socially-engaged filmmaker, but has passed to the peasants themselves and to the African audiences viewing the film.” —summary by California Newsreel (

Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank. Black African Cinema. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

“Offers a vauluable look at the harsh realities of village life in a little-seen land. The director shines with a lively script and complex characters. –Variety magazine

“A wonderful script full of scenes of sparkling lightness and humor” –Cahiers du Cinema

“Sango Malo reflects the thematic continuity and stylistic diversity of African cinema. Its topics – the relevance of education and human solidarity – are timeless and universal.”
–Francoise Pfaff, Howard University

Academic Articles:
Diawara, Manthia. African Cinema: Politics and Culture. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1992.