Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“Banel and Adama”: Review of the director's debut. Tradition versus independence

  • Banel and Adama, who are in love, live in a small village in the north of Senegal. Banel tries at all costs to move with his beloved to his own home, start a new life together and gain freedom. Adama, according to local customs, is to become the head of the village. He is attached to the traditions of his ancestors and feels responsible for the local community. Problems caused by the drought mean that the couple spends less and less time together, and Banel feels more and more lonely and unhappy.
  • Banel and Adama” is a feature directorial debut Ramaty-Toulaye Sy. Khady Mane and Mamadou Diallo played the main roles. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

“Banel and Adama” directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy is a niche cinema. A French-Senegalese drama that is easy to miss among the multitude of diverse, much more spectacular films available in cinema repertoires. This is a feature directorial debut, balancing on the border of documentary cinema. I am aware that this title does not break records in terms of attendance in cinemas or general interest. However, I believe that if at least one viewer in a million decides to watch it, this viewing will be remembered for a long time.

Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) are married. Banel is an individualist. He wants to lead life his own way, on his own terms, and does not want to submit to locally accepted traditions. He wants to build his four walls next to Adama. He, in turn, is stuck between life with his beloved and life according to the customs of the village.

The love story is a pretext to present the characters' complex internal conflicts. In addition to the social, cultural and religious contexts drawn, the creator draws attention to other contemporary problems that affect the inhabitants of a village in northern Senegal. They are facing the climate crisis. They pray for rain. The heat affects their physical and, above all, mental health.

Symbolism plays an important role in the film. For Banel, building a new house means cutting herself off from tradition and breaking away from the expectations of her loved ones. I appreciate when creators decide to show the emotional state of the characters using nature – this is the case with the film “Banel and Adama”. A particular scene stands out in my memory. The long-awaited rain finally falls on the village, a storm breaks out, and… boiling emotions finally find an outlet.

“Banel and Adama” delights with its metaphorical layer, but it should be emphasized that the main plot is a very simple story that has been used many times on the screen. The heroes face a choice: love or tradition? How much are they willing to sacrifice for love? Every day is a constant struggle between individual dreams and attachment to local customs. Between heart and mind.

This is a film worth appreciating because of its documentary-like atmosphere. The creator shows viewers what the everyday life of the village inhabitants is like. It presents moments of elation, but also various problems of everyday life. In addition to the symbolism and emphasis on the climate crisis I mentioned, there was also a theme of dealing with grief. There is no shortage of long shots on the screen that I love, focused on small gestures and glances.

“Banel and Adama” is a multi-layered, non-one-dimensional film. The creator uses a simple story to present the problems of the modern world. It invites us to a world that seemingly seems distant to us, but quickly turns out to be overwhelmingly close.


“Banel and Adama”, dir. Ramata-Toulaye Sy. Release date in Poland: May 10, 2024.

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