Sango Malo by Bassek ba Kobhio

Spoilers in this review.

Sango Malo by Bassek ba Kobhio is one of my favorite films from Africa to use for introducing African economic development issues.  The film was released in the heady days of 1991 when a new generation thought there might be a possibility of transition from the one-party dictators who had taken over after independence and stifled the aspirations of the earlier generations.  Late in the film a narrator recites a poem by Charles Ngandé, Indépendence, about the uncertain promise of the end of the colonial era.

In the film, Malo, a young radical teacher, tries to apply a Paolo Freire pedagogy of the oppressed to the schoolchildren of his class in Lebamzip.  Sango, the headmaster, was also once young and idealistic and stubborn, but has seemingly turned into everything that Malo despises: selfish, authoritarian, uninterested in the well-being of the next generation, unwilling to change.  The results of Malo’s experiments are predictable in the context.  At the end of the film the village chief (represented almost as a caricature) defeats the upstart Malo, who is taken off to prison.  What I like along the way is that all of the characters eventually get represented as humans, with complicated personalities and lives.  Sango’s wife turns out to be quite wise, and their children, it seems, turned out to have gone astray. Sango is bitter for personal reasons.  Vois-tout (See-all) turns out to be the village drunk because his entire family was killed in an accident.  Even the chief is humanized: he is feared and ridiculed all at the same time, sometimes right in front of his face.  And he knows he is also just a pawn in a larger, national stage.  Towards the end of the film ba Kobhio nicely illustrates in a series of vignettes how the political is personal.  The villagers especially remind Malo that his self-righteousness (“You think we are children?”) is often counter-productive.  When his father-in-law commits suicide after Malo insists on not paying any dowry and not seeking approval for his marriage, the viewer is reminded, in a tiny scene, of the legitimate role of the chief (someone needs to decide what to do), the complexity of change, and the autonomy of the village deep in the forest where important things are local.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sango Malo is not a great cinematic experience.  Too didactic, little real acting.  Too many B roll shots of people walking in the landscape.  But it is an authentic cinematic experience, in the sense that a good storyteller has crammed a lot of interesting ideas into 90 minutes.  My favorite line?  Sango rebukes Malo: “You sound like Sekou Touré in 1958.”  If only Stokely Carmichael had seen the film, somehow, back in 1971.

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Fairly recent viewing on Netflix

Look Who’s Back – Excellent first hour, as Hitler suddenly reappears in contemporary Germany.  It grinds on as commentary on the media.

Victoria – Two hour film, all one take, of a robbery gone awry. Technically it is wonderful to watch.  Grinds on as conventional Breathless….

Hinterland – Moody police procedural.  Let me go lock my windows before one of the many dozen serial killers who roam TV land attacks me.

About Elly – Awesome Iranian movie about a group of friends who rent a seaside villa for a short holiday.  It goes awry.  Never grinds on.  Beautiful movie-making.

To the End of the World – You need a period drama fix?  This overlooked gem does excellently through three long episodes and only fails at the very very end.  Benedict Cumberbatch or whatever his name is leads an excellent cast in the confined quarters of a ship making its way to Australia.

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Micro-biotics in Burkina Faso

Thanks Andrew Passet for the link!

A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the microbiots of children living in rural Burkina Faso in West Africa to the microbiots of urban, city-dwelling children in Italy. The African children ate a high-fibre diet of vegetables, grains and legumes, with no processed foods, whereas the diet of the European children was full of sugars, animal fats and refined grains. The gut microbes of the children from Burkina Faso were very different from — and much more diverse than — those of the Italian kids.We wouldn’t want to say that children in Burkina Faso have a healthier lifestyle than Italian children. They are more likely to suffer severe infections and malnutrition, and they have a lower life expectancy than children born in Western Europe. But they also have a decreased risk of suffering from the immune diseases that are epidemic in the Western world.In an ideal world, children would harbour a rich and diverse community of microbes without the threat of severe infectious diseases, but our current practices only address half of this equation. Given how well bacteria respond to diet, eating a variety of foods is perhaps the best way to increase microbial diversity, and there’s no better time to do this than during the first few years of life.As a practical matter, this means that we shouldn’t feed a baby only rice cereal for weeks until the package is finished. We should offer a variety of grains, including oats, rice, barley and quinoa. It’s also important to offer whole grains instead of refined ones. The Western diet is extremely low in fibre, and refined grains contain very little of it.Protein-rich legumes, such as lentils, beans and peas, have an abundance of fibre and can be easily mashed for babies. Also try non-traditional starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips or cassava (tapioca) rather than just sticking to low-fibre veggies such as potatoes. For older children, add fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables.

Source: Get your children good and dirty

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Did a FAVL librarian just challenge my French Scrabble word?


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Rencontre des bibliothécaires a Béréba dans le Tuy

bibliothecaires tuy

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Puerto Rico’s fiscal oversight board named

I kept waiting for the call, but someone must have told them my expertise was rural libraries in Burkina Faso, not really the skill-set needed?

The White House said it had chosen seven experts in finance and the law to supervise Puerto Rico’s fiscal affairs in the coming months under a law enacted this summer intended to help the island restructure its $72 billion debt. Four of the supervisory board members are Republicans and three are Democrats, chosen from lists provided to the White House by the party leaders of both houses of Congress. And four of the members are Puerto Ricans, which is three more than required under the new debt-restructuring law. The Republicans named to the board are:

Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. José B. Carrión III, president of Hub International, an insurance brokerage in Puerto Rico. Carlos M. García, founder and chief executive of BayBoston Managers, a private equity firm. David A. Skeel Jr., a University of Pennsylvania law professor with expertise in bankruptcy. The Democrats are: Arthur J. Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the New York University School of Law and a former chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. José Ramon González, president and chief executive of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. Ana J. Matosantos, president of Matosantos Consulting and a former director of the California Department of Finance.

In addition, the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, will hold a position on the board. He is not seeking a second term as governor, so whoever is elected to succeed him in November will take his seat on the board.

Source: Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Affairs Will Be Overseen by 7 Experts in Finance and Law – The New York Times

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All the way to Ouagadougou to participate in meetings!

They are good meetings…. but still.  From 8am-2pm working with Dounko, our FAVL director here in Burkina, covering all the issues, planning, and budgeting.  Then 3pm-5pm excellent meeting with our partner team at Catholic Relief Services over in Gounghin.  Great to meet Myriam Dems and Abdoulaye Barry, and get feedback from the project director Neda Sobhani.  The meeting just flew by.  Then back to Zogona, for dinner and conversation with Alain Sissao.  New Korean restaurant.  Pricey but good.

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