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[Short Reviews]

FAAT KINE

The most recent film from Senegalese master Ousmane Sembene is a rich, relaxed comedy of middle-class Dakar society. The title character is an unmarried mother of two; disowned by her father and tricked and taken advantage of by her worthless lovers, Faat Kine (the radiant Venus Seye) is now the hard-as-nails manager of what may be Dakarís (and could be New Englandís) cleanest gas station. Her proud and protective children pass their high-school exams at the beginning of the film and then turn their attention to finding a husband for their mom.

Sembeneís narrative encompasses many ominous aspects of modern Senegal: resentment between Moslems and Christians; begging; poverty; high interest rates; the AIDS epidemic. But the film is bathed in calm, clear light and filled with ebullient colors, and it ends on a note of optimism and triumph that feels inevitable, not dragged in or merely crowd-pleasing. Although lacking the acid brilliance of earlier Sembene masterworks like Black Girl and Xala, Faat Kine is a vigorous, entertaining movie with a directness and a tonal control that are the hallmarks of a master.

BY CHRIS FUJIWARA

Issue Date: July 12-19, 2001