1971-1980African CinemaDramaMaliSouleymane Cissé

Souleymane Cissé – Baara AKA Work (1978)

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In this early work, Cissé focuses on a young innocent who has left the countryside for the city and become caught in the middle of social conflict. Befriended by the manager of a textile factory, he watches as his mentor is caught between the demands of a cruel owner and the needs of the much-abused workers he oversees. Having spent years studying Marxist ideology in Moscow, Cissé was the first African director to directly confront and criticize the condition of workers in the city. Yet the social constructs and characters he develops are presented with a clarity unencumbered by the typical moralizing of socialist films.
Harvard Film Archive

The film grapples with the greed and corruption of the business elite and highlights the emerging social awareness of workers and women.
A young Malian country boy works as a baara, a porter in Bamako. One day he makes friends with a young engineer, Balla Traoré, who takes him under his wing and help him out in trouble with the police and finds him a job in the factory.
Balla, who studied in Europe, tries to apply his liberal ideas in the factory. He takes on the union under the factories owner’s control, and enters into conflict with the factory management. He decries the economic exploitation in the textile factory he supervises and the corruption of his manager who will eventually have him murdered.
Baara is very much a film of its time. Its portrait of the new, Western-educated managerial class vacillating between “selling out” and adhering to their ideals; the new bourgeoisie; the 70s clothing; the new office buildings and factories built on a growing mountain of debt; the new proletarian class of factory workers; shifting domestic relations—give us a snapshot of a particular moment and social dynamic.


Subtitles:English, French, German

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