The film is about young Africans who decide to go to Paris in France to better their lives. They try hard to acquire boat tickets to go to France hoping for stability and prosperity. This is because they have been pushed by the desperate conditions in Senegal. The film revolves around Mory and Anta. Mory is a former herd’s boy who is a motorcyclist. Anta on the other hand is a student at a local university. It emerges that the University is not a safe-haven given that it is prone to decadent revolutionaries.
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The theme of poverty is evident in the film. Mory and Anta, for instance, want to travel to France from Senegal but lack money for that. They opt to steal the money to cater for the travel expenses. First they steal a box at a wrestling match hoping to get some cash in the box. They later steal money and clothes from Charlie the rich homosexual who had been attracted to Mory. The film portrays the Senegalese society as one which is divided by class.
On one side there are the wealthy that are mainly the urban centers and live lavishly enjoying the amenities. On the other hand there are the poor, who are mostly in the rural areas and are in abject poverty, having no access to basic amenities. When Mory decides to alight from the boat he goes back to Medina, which is a slum where people live under deplorable conditions (Ukadike 173).
The other theme that is evident in the film is cultural alienation. Mory is portrayed as a young man with no respect for the Senegalese traditions. Instead of riding on a steer, he rides on a motorbike with the horns of a cow tied to the handle bar.
While searching for the money to facilitate the journey to Paris, Mory is willing to sell himself to a rich African Gay individual, Charlie. This is contrary to the African culture which abhors homosexuality. It is evident that the well-off Africans emulate the lifestyle of the whites which is contrary to the Senegalese culture.
Neo-colonialism is another prominent theme in this film. Mory and Anta, for instance, perceive their community as backward and they try hard, even stealing so as to afford their tickets to Paris, their dream city. They therefore perceive the Whiteman’s lifestyle as superior. Some of the rich and elite in Senegal have adapted the Whiteman’s lifestyle, like homosexuality which is abhorred in the African culture. Mory and Anta also make love yet they are not married.
This is against their culture. The Senegalese culture is depicted as one which has lost its values and has been encroached by the Whiteman’s culture. The film was first released in 1973 after independence. Senegal is depicted as a nation grappling with the search for its identity. When Anta attends some of the meetings with the revolutionaries, it is evident that they speak in French and tend to resurrect the colonial practice. Racism is eminent.
The theme of suffering is also portrayed in the film. Majority of the people live under deplorable conditions with no access to amenities. Most of the poor live in the rural areas and slums. Anta and Mory meet in Dakar while trying to find a way to travel to Paris to escape the misery in their country.
The film begins in a rural setting and shifts to an abattoir where cattle are slaughtered brutally by first cutting open their windpipes. This is symbolic of the suffering of Africans in this post-colonial Senegal. The brutality vested on these animals is the same that the blacks are forced to undergo. When Mory finally decides to alight from the boat, he opts to go back to the slums where life is tough, as people are congested and live under deplorable conditions.
Betrayal is another theme that comes out in this film. The natives live under deplorable conditions yet it is during the post colonial period. It was expectated that after independence they would be governed by their fellow Africans and be economically empowered as well as do away with the racism that characterized the Whiteman’s rule. The people’s hopes are dashed as many natives are still poor and live in slums under deplorable conditions or are in rural areas where they lack basic amenities.
They are disillusioned. Betrayal is also evident in the lifestyles of most of the youth, the elite and the rich who have abandoned their traditional values for the Whiteman’s culture. Homosexuality, for instance, is perceived as a taboo yet it is practiced by Charlie, a rich young man who is attracted to Mory. Anta and Mory make love yet they are not married and engage in different kinds of vices including stealing so as to get a boat ticket to Paris.
Mory instead of riding on a steer, has attached horns of a cow on his motorbike handle bar. Mory and Anta perceive their lifestyle as backward and try hard to get a ticket to Paris to live like a Whiteman. Mory also betrays Anta when he leaves her at the boat and opts to go back to his lifestyle in the slums, yet they had agreed to travel together to Paris.
Inherent tension is evident in this film. It is evident from the conflict that exists between tradition and change. The fact that Mory decides to tie the skull of a cow on his motorbike is an indication of the conflict between tradition and modernity.
By Anta going to the University rather than remain subservient to the Aunt and Islamic tradition is an indication of a break from the traditional culture. The natives seem to be bound by their traditional superstitious ways as opposed to modernity where people do not believe in such. Anta’s aunt, for instance, is a sorcerer yet Anta herself is not a believer in such.
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Aspects of homosexuality, exhibited, are an indication of the breakaway from the traditional values that abhors that as a vice. Senegal is expected to be an independent country. The country is however still grappling with Neo-colonialism with the whites still perceived as superior and their culture emulated by most people. Aspects of racism are rampant. Revolutionary movements still prefer to use French while conversing and even Anta and Mory try hard to get a ticket to go to the Whiteman’s land.
Mory however runs away from the boat as he has doubts as to whether France is as good as they expected. He goes back to Dakar where he feels he belongs and back to his culture. There is also the aspect of familiarity versus the unknown. Mory and Anta perceive their culture as backward and their lifestyle as difficult. They would rather go to France, an unfamiliar land with the hope of a better life.
Mory however, decides not to travel to an unknown land and would rather remain with his people no matter how hard life is. Inherent tension is also evident in the aspects of reality versus utopia. Mory and Anta are obsessed with going to Paris as it is perceived as an ideal place where they would get all that they required but the truth is that not all those who get there really get to their dreams (Adesokan 65-67).
Adesokan, Akin. Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2011.Print.
Ukadike, Frank. Black African Cinema. California: University of California Press, 2004.Print.