Oedipus meets Romeo and Juliet

Issue 

Oedipus meets Romeo and Juliet

Tilaï
Written and directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo
Starring Rasmane Ouedraogo, Ina Cisse, Roukietou Barry and Assane Ouedraogo
Season begins October 30, AFI Cinema, Paddington
Reviewed by Norm Dixon

Viewers convinced that tribal societies have somehow discovered true wisdom and social harmony after watching the seemingly interminable and patronisingly idyllic SBS doco Millennium should immediately see Tilaï so they can crash headfirst into reality once more.

Tribal people, as represented in this tale from the backblocks of Burkina Faso in west Africa, are just as capable as the rest of us of thoroughly messing up their own and other people's lives through bigotry, pride, chauvinism and outdated and unjust social mores.

Those fortunate enough to have already seen Idrissa Ouedraogo's marvellous Yaaba will know what to expect. As in his earlier film, Ouedraogo combines stunning panoramic scenes of the sparse and desolate landscape with a solid story-line of moral dilemma and complex personal interactions. The pace and flavour of life in a subsistence pastoralist society are almost tangible.

As in Yaaba, the largely amateur cast turn in brilliant and believable performances. A beautiful score by South Africa's favourite pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim, parallels the landscape's austere grandeur.

In Tilaï, Ouedraogo presents a pessimistic view of the consequences of challenging traditional and unjust social practices. Oedipus meets Romeo and Juliet on the plains of the Sahel.

Saga (Rasmane Ouedraogo) returns home after a long absence to find his fiancee, Nogma (Ina Cisse), has been forcibly married to his own decrepit father. The inevitable dalliance between the young reunited lovers not only breaches the strictly enforced taboos against adultery but also incest. In this village, the punishment for incest means Saga must die.

Despite general agreement among those closest to the errant couple that the law ("tilaï") is unjust, all attempts to thwart or avoid it fail. Nearly all who conspire to abet or excuse the young rebels suffer severely.

The only note of optimism is Nogma's teenage sister Kuilga's (Roukieto Barry) enthusiastic rejection of the unjust patriarchal social order, and her active attempt to challenge it. Ouedraogo seems to be saying that necessary social change will come but slowly and at great cost.