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“Waiting For Happiness” (When China Met Africa)

Tambay posted a couple days ago on the upcoming documentary When China Met Africa (review coming soon) and I started to think about films that show some sort of connection between Africa and China; Let the cinephile game begin!

I remembered seeing this film last year called Waiting for Happiness by Abderrahmane Sissako.

Sissako has been mentioned on this site, specifically about his 2006 treasure Bamako. Waiting for Happiness, which was in the Un Certain Regard section for the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, is about Abdallah, a young man traveling through his coastal village in the West African country of Mauritania, while on his way to Europe. He has a hard time readjusting in his village, because he does not speak his native dialect, and he wears “Western” clothes.

Throughout the film, we meet characters in the village, including a Chinese man selling watches, and wants to woo one of the local women; his part is brief but noticeable. There is an elderly electrician who takes an orphaned boy under his wing, young girl practicing music with her teacher, and a woman who lost her daughter and had to go to Europe to tell the father.

It should be noted that there is no consistent narrative here, it moves more like a series of non-causal events. Be forewarned that the film moves at a painstakingly slow pace, but I really appreciate how Sissako takes his time to tell the story with the images. In a way, Waiting For Happiness is transitive – it feels like everything and everybody is in constant motion, going somewhere to be somewhere.

The film employs non-actors and anyone who is familiar with Italian Neo-Realism or has seen The Bicycle Thief can see the clear similarities; just compare the little boy in The Bicycle Thief and Khatra in this film.

There are some spectacularly beautiful images in this film and is definitely worth checking out! It’s available on Netflix instant watch.

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