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Mandabi Criterion Blu-ray Review

Mo Money Mo Problems.

Written and directed by Ousmane Sembène (and based off of his own novella), “Mandabi” (AKA “The Money Order”) is a comic drama slice of life tale that revolves around a poor, jobless, aging Senegalese Muslim family man (Dieng Ibrahima) with 2 wives and 7 children. One day, Dieng gets a letter from his nephew Abdou who is working a job in Paris who also sends a money order for him, Abdou’s mother as well as Abdou himself for when he eventually returns. What should be a simple cash-in, however, turns into an utter nightmare as Dieng has to jump through many hoops to try and get it cashed. His community, meanwhile, learns of his good fortune which causes people to ask for loans and sales of items. 

Filmed in the Wolof language, “Mandabi” is an important piece of African cinema that manages to explore a great deal of subject matters through a very simple premise. Through Dieng’s struggles to survive and cash a money order, the story examines class, societal structures, politics, greed, cheaters, wealth, and community. Yes, the 1968 film is told through a comedic lens, but there’s a sincerity to the hardships and hustle of everyday life for Dieng and his neighbors to stay afloat. At the same time, Ousmane Sembène is also clearly providing a biting commentary on Senegal at the time the film was made which gives the film an authentic historical context.

Performance wise, everyone gives a very professional and believable performance, but actor Mahouredia Gueye gives a great deal of physical and internal depth to the character of Dieng as the flawed, but seemingly kind man gets dragged down by a series of misfortunes.


Presentation: 1.66:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration provides a crisp print of this film.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? It may be a Mono track with some flaws, but it’s satisfactory nonetheless. 

* The entire “Money Order” novella by Ousmane Sembène
* A booklet featuring credits and an essay by scholar/writer Tiana Reid
* An intro by film and African studies scholar Aboubakar Sanogo
* “Tauw”- A short film about unemployment
* “Praise Song”- A collection of unused footage from the documentary “Sembène!” makes up this documentary short.
* Boubacar Boris Diop And Marie Angelique Savane- A conversation between novelist/journalist/screenwriter Boubacar Boris Diop and socioligist and feminist activist Marie Angelique Savane about the release of “Mandabi” in Africa.

February 27, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | ,

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