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
Produced by: Jacques Perrin and Ousmane Sembène
Music: Baaba Maal
Cinematography: Dominique Gentil
Editing: Marie-Aimée Debril
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.
Guelwaar. The New Yorker (magazine)
Guelwaar. TV Guide (film website)
Janet Maslin, Guelwaar (1993): Review/Film; Sembene's Microscopic Look at a Vast Issue. The New York Times (newspaper)
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Guelwaar. Chicago Reader (newspaper)
Marjorie Baumgarten, Guelwaar. The Austin Chronicle (newspaper)
Richard Harrington, ‘Guelwaar’. Washington Post (newspaper)
Roger Ebert, Guelwaar. RogerEbert.com (film review website)