94 minutes, 1991, Cameroon Director: Bassek ba Kobhio in French with English subtitles
ABOUT THE FILM
Sango Malo offers American viewers an intimate and engaging portrait of the complex social dynamic underlying economic and political change in a typical African village. It argues passionately that a populist education must be a key component of any democratic, human-centered development paradigm for Africa. Bassek ba Kobhio explains why his first feature focuses on education: "It is education which can form a new people...It is hard to think about changing African society without envisioning an appropriate form of education."
Sango Malo contrasts two views of education. The traditional headmaster represents a rigid, "Eurocentric." curriculum designed to produce docile colonial administrators. Malo, the radical young teacher, emphasizes the practical skills needed to build a self-reliant rural community. The film illustrates Brazilian educator Paolo Freire's celebrated distinction between an education which the ruling class uses to inculcate its values in students' minds and one which empowers students to shape their own destiny.
Malo's innovative ideas soon spread to the rest of the village. With his help, the peasants establish a cooperative store and a cocoa marketing cooperative which undercut the power of the village chief, store owner and priest. When Malo alienates the villagers by demanding too rapid change, his enemies call in the army which arrests and imprisons him.
But Malo has taught his lessons so well the villagers can carry on his reforms without him. In the last, open-ended shot, the camera discretely pulls back as the peasants celebrate a future they themselves will make. The narrative thrust, the responsibility for development, no longer lies with the village elite, nor the progressive schoolmaster, nor even the socially-engaged filmmaker, but has passed to the peasants themselves and to the African audiences viewing the film.
"Offers a valuable look at the harsh realities of village life in a little-seen land. The director shines with a lively script and complex characters."
"A wonderful script full of scenes of sparkling lightness and humor."
Cahiers du Cinema
"Sango Malo reflects the thematic continuity and stylistic diversity of African cinema. Its topics - the relevance of education and human solidarity - are timeless and universal."
Francoise Pfaff, Howard University
"Allows students in an entertaining way, to obtain a real sense of the problems of development in their full complexity."