Films of the 00s: Dôlè
"A Slumdog Millionaire nearly ten years avant la Boyle, this shortish Gabonese feature has the good sense to avoid either the chirpy fructification of poverty as entertainment or the sensationalizing of grisly violence as an entrée into the life of some dream-deferred youths. School kid Mougler (David Nguema Nkoghe) wants to get in on the hip-hop game with his pals, especially lead emcee Baby Lee (Emile Mepango Matala), who sports a Fugees T-shirt while he rehearses the French-language lyrics of his favorite artists and chastises his buddies for mucking up their parts. It would be easier to hold the rhythm and master the words if these kids had a radio, which they still refer to as a 'ghetto blaster,' a few years after you stopped hearing that term quite so much in the American streets. Despite the likelihood that huge swaths of Dôlè's audience won't ever have seen a Gabonese film, or perhaps any West African film or any images of Gabon or Libreville at all, writer-director Imunga Ivanga isn't interested in the kind of social cross-section that would contextualize where and how and in relation to whom these kids live, to include whether they have their own 'ghetto' to blast. It doesn't quite look it, but unlike Boyle, Ivanga associates the frustration of have-nots with a series of sharply coded rules, fantasies, and assumptions, not with grabby emblems of abjection or televised deliverance..." (keep reading...)
Like a lot of African films, especially those without the auteurist pull of a Sembene or a Mambéty imprimatur, Dôlè is distributed in rentable, projectable, and purchasable formats by California Newsreel, which deserves all the thanks and the dollars it can get. Encourage your local or university library to buy it and then check it out.