Guelwaar (Senegal: 1992)

Director

Ousmene Sembène

Cast list

Omar Seck                                          Gora
Mame Ndoumbe Diop                  Nogoy Marie Thioune
Thierno Ndiaye                                Pierre Henri Thioune
Ndiawar Diop                                   Barthelemy
Mustapha Diop                                Aloys
Marie-Augustine Diatta               Sophie
Samba Wane                                     Gor Mag
Joseph Sane                                      Father Leon
Coly Mbaye                                       Alfred
Isseu Niang                                       Veronique

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Credits

Produced by: Jacques Perrin and Ousmane Sembène

Music: Baaba Maal

Cinematography: Dominique Gentil

Editing: Marie-Aimée Debril

Synopsis

This film follows the events surrounding the death of a Senegalese political activist, Pierre Henri Thioune or "Guelwaar." Guelwaar was a Catholic who protested foreign aid and its influence; he believed that this aid was causing corruption and robbing Senegal of its independence and its self-respect. Soon after delivering a passionate speech on these subjects, Guelwaar is found dead, and the film implies that the timing of this tragedy may not be a coincidence.

The story then begins to focus on Guelwaar's funeral. His family gathers, including his wife, Sophie; his daughter, who is a sex worker in Dakar; his son Barthelemy, who lives in Paris; and another son Aloys, who is disabled. Yet after all have arrived, the body disappears from the funeral home. A Muslim police officer named Gora is put on the case, and although Gora may not have agreed with Guelwaar, he did respect him and works to resolve the mystery. During the search, buried conflicts within Senegalese society emerge, particularly the tension between Muslims and Christians, who normally live together without incident. Whispers about the reason for the body's disappearance are silenced, however, when it is discovered that it was buried in a Muslim cemetery purely by accident.

Yet this mundane explanation is immediately followed by a new problem: the Catholics want the body to be exhumed and buried in the proper cemetery, but the Muslims consider the act of disturbing graves sacrilegious. Many are determined to remain reasonable despite the conflict, and a meeting between the regional imam and priest to discuss the situation seems close to providing a satisfactory conclusion. Just when it seems that all might end well, a government official threatens to destroy everything by tapping into the biases of the audience.

 

 

 

Reviews

GuelwaarThe New Yorker (magazine)

GuelwaarTV Guide (film website)

Janet Maslin, Guelwaar (1993): Review/Film; Sembene's Microscopic Look at a Vast IssueThe New York Times (newspaper)

Jonathan Rosenbaum, GuelwaarChicago Reader (newspaper)

Marjorie Baumgarten, GuelwaarThe Austin Chronicle (newspaper)

Richard Harrington, ‘Guelwaar’Washington Post (newspaper)

Roger Ebert, GuelwaarRogerEbert.com (film review website)

 

 

 

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Touki Bouki Senegal 1973 Djibril Diop Mambéty
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Contras City Senegal 1969 Djibril Diop Mambety
Xala Senegal 1975 Ousmane Sembène
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Le Prix du Pardon Senegal 2001 Mansour Sora Wade
La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil Senegal 1999 Djibril Diop Mambéty
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