Monday, 1 February 2010


After being refused a raise by his unsympathetic boss, factory worker Sekou is left unemployed and uncertain about his future. After breaking the news to his parents, he decides not to be put out by his problems, and begins to spend his time pursuing deaf-mute girl Ténin, the daughter of his former employer. At a beachside picnic, Sekou takes advantage of her inability to speak and sexually abuses her. The assault leaves Ténin pregnant, and she rather than Sekou is vilified for the situation. Unable to express her pain, her parents decide what they believe to be best for her – a hasty marriage to Sekou.

Souleymane Cissé’s debut film contrasts urbanisation with tradition, and the conclusion is deliberately unhappy as if to express the incompatibility of the two. Den Muso is unusual for an African film in that it openly represents and discusses sexuality without passing judgment, but Cissé is careful not to lose sight of his message. Ténin is often captured in soft focus close-ups, and the silence of these sequences speaks far louder volumes than the verbose officiousness spouted by her parents. What the film lays bare more than anything else is the fact that Ténin’s inability to hear or speak is mostly extraneous, as her words would still have no power. Actress Dounamba Dany Coulibaly fulfils this challenging role with a quiet dignity, and it is almost impossible to remain unmoved by her performance in the film’s final scenes. Never dogmatic, Cissé’s film is an understated masterpiece.

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