Short Film Wednesday - Ousmane (Deweneti)
When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day.
When Westerners like myself see films and images about Africa, we have a hard time divorcing our preconceptions from our opinions of these images. Africa (a dubious term in and of itself) has so often been seen through the lens of poverty porn that we often fail to see how much of this stereotype is a reflection of our own privilege.
Ousmane (Abbase Ba) is trying to raise enough funds to write a letter to Santa Claus. His journey takes him to many locations and many different people. Ousmane himself remains a bit of a mystery, but his optimism and good heart are apparent, even as he has to wheedle a bit of spare change from some very reluctant people.
What Ousmane (or Deweneti) does so well is that it simply inhabits this world with no judgment. There is no dwelling over abject poverty or artificial manipulation of our heartstrings. And sure, Ousmane is begging for alms for most of this little film, but it is not quite what we think. As short as the interactions between Ousmane and the various people he visits with are, we learn enough about their characters to imagine their rich lives outside of this film. We also get the sense that this is a community of people rather than disparate individuals, as all of them seem to have some sort of (mostly amicable) relationship with Ousmane.
I am glad I saw this particular film, mainly because it chooses not to be didactic but rather aims to immerse us in this community and see these people as individuals. There is even a delightful hint of magical realism at the end that director Dyana Gaye sets up earlier in the film and is an affirmation of Ousmane’s pure heart.