Hey friends, I’m putting together brief reviews on the 40 best movies I saw in 2013, regardless of release date. I’m sticking to one film per director to add some variety. Feel free to search my “Top 40” tag to see all of the reviews, and I hope you enjoy.
Mandabi (Ousmane Sembene, 1968)
Watching this film in the US in 2013 without being struck by the similarities between the protagonist’s struggles to redeem a money order with the ridiculous farce of voter ID laws that have sprung up in the last few years. In each case, these system break down at the point of extreme poverty, in this instance, the man intends to get a money order sent from a nephew in Paris, but he doesn’t have proper identification. To get proper identification, he needs a birth certificate, to get a birth certificate, he needs to know when he is born, and really, he needs proper identification, and so on. The only way to cut through the system is bribery, which he has to take out loans to even attempt, and even that doesn’t work (being illiterate also puts him at a distinct disadvantage). The film plays as a ridiculous tragedy; we aren’t so much moved by this one individual’s struggles as we are by a system that works so poorly. It’s like Kafka filmed by a social-realist, terrifying in how plausible it all seems.