REVIEW: The African King; "Adanggamman's" Slave Tale Sets Sights on African Complicity

by Mia Mask

(indieWIRE/ 07.12.01) -- The controversy behind director Roger Gnoan M'Bala's
new film is that it raises the issue of African
complicity in the slave trade. Produced in the Ivory
Coast and shown at the Toronto and Vienna festivals,
"Adanggamman" created a stir at the recent Fespaco
Film Festival
in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, the African
equivalent to Cannes. Annoyed critics stressed that
the film absolves Europeans of guilt and
responsibility for the predatory plundering of Africa
by colonial powers. The film's defenders claim
Europeans could not have taken hold on a continent
like Africa -- and stolen its children -- had there
not been collaboration with local establishment. After
all, slavery existed in Africa long before the Middle
Passage. Now this historical debate is grist for the
proverbial mill, as "Adanggamman," a stunningly shot
picture, enjoys a two-week theatrical engagement, July
11-July 24, at Film Forum.

Set in seventeenth century Africa, the film opens on
the small, idyllic village of Sikadougou. A stern
village elder, N'Go, is in the midst of a dispute with
his son, Ossei (Honoré Gooré Bi Ziablé) over the young
man's romantic attachment to a girl his father deems
unsuitable. Despite intervention by Ossei's
sympathetic mother, Mô Akassi (Albertine N