Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s tragic romance follows two lovers on a quest for self-possession in the face of tradition and against the terrestrial majesty of the Sahel.
Banel & Adama
Banel & Adama is the breathtaking debut feature from writer-director Ramata-Toulaye Sy, whose breakout short Astel (TIFF ’21) earned the Festival’s Share Her Journey award for emerging women filmmakers. Set against the terrestrial majesty of the Sahel, the film is a tragic romance following two young lovers as they strive for independence and self-possession in the face of imperious tradition.
Neither Senegal nor the rest of the world has known a love like Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama’s (Mamadou Diallo), each eager to begin their adult lives away from the stifling demands of their families and community. The young couple were married by an ostensible combination of chance and duty when Adama’s older brother Yero died, leaving a still-young Banel, his second wife, a too-young widow. Now, the same duty dictates that Adama accept the role of village chief. However, the fated lovers have plans that do not include the expectations of others. That is, until something in the air changes. The rains do not come, the cattle begin to die, the men leave and Banel, once lovelorn and lost in responsibility, surrenders to the call for a life lived beyond prescription.
Premiering in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival — the sole debut granted the honour — Banel & Adama is a lyrical odyssey that takes a hypnotic descent into mythic fabulism with the profundity of a timeless fable. Sy delivers a lesson in craft, building lush, inspired, and strong-willed characters who command perspective, seeking to carve out a future for themselves in a narrative atmosphere hauntingly alive from sand to sky.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival