By Chris Gore | December 10, 2001

This film has not yet been reviewed. Check back later for the complete review here on FilmThreat.com. Synopsis: “Is what we learn worth more than what we forget?” El Hadj, a Senegalese who has endured years of immigrant life in Paris, faces this question with growing urgency. Like many African intellectuals, he followed the inspiration of Sekou Touré and Patrice Lumumba: seek modern knowledge and skills in the West, then come home to build post-colonial Africa. But years have come and gone, and he has neither saved enough money for the long-postponed marriage nor written his long-researched thesis. The insults of his life in the all-male world of poor students, day laborers, and street vendors begin to weigh on him.

One day El Hadj goes to renew his expired immigration papers and is subjected to a humiliating arrest and imprisonment. The shock sets into motion the fault line that runs between the African and French sides of his life, and the two halves of his world begin to slowly pull apart. He emerges from his short but nightmarish stay in jail beset by doubts and nagged by long-repressed questions about purpose and meaning. A romance with a young French woman quiets his anxieties for a time, but in the end makes the contradictions still more difficult to bear.

This first feature film by Alain Gomis, son of a Senegalese father and a French mother, is part of a new wave of African films that explore with frank intensity the scars of colonialism, and the problems of identity and disenfranchisement that young men like El Hadj endure. In agonizing close-up shots we see him tortured by the memory of the man he hoped to become, his ambitions, his dreams. Driven to the brink of suicide, El Hadj finally confronts the meaning of a life lived between two worlds.

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