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By Jamie Tipps | January 20, 2007

In Laurent Sagues’ “Buried Dreams,” a stranger treks across an African desert, the colorless landscape only slightly less brutal than the tortuous wind. Arriving at a mining camp that more closely resembles purgatory than safe haven, he joins the village’s search for gold. However, amongst the members of his crew, Mocktar Dicko (played with grace and restraint by Makeno Diop) stands apart. Sadness haunts him, and by punishing the body to tame the mind, he finds temporary escape in this dangerous world.

The past, of course, will not stay buried. Dicko’s guilt is slowly revealed, as is each supporting character’s reason for remaining in the desolate camp. Befriended by his fellow workers, Dicko learns their secret dreams—to win a bride, to renew a fortune, to secure a daughter’s education. The fulfillment of these hopes hinges on finding precious gold, a craving that inevitably corrupts. As wealth is won and lost, each villager exists in a cyclical hell.

While well crafted, the film is nevertheless flawed. The director strives for quiet performances and inferences, but in doing so, the characters’ motivations are often ambiguous. In particular, the occasional but abrupt shifts in Dicko’s personality between nobility and immorality are disruptive and seemingly without catalyst—the result of which suggests that in this case, subtlety should be sacrificed in favor of clarity.

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