Described by director and screenwriter Abdoulaye Ascofaré as a homage to his mother, who herself had a hard life, the film follows the fortunes of a mother struggling to look after her handicapped husband and three difficult children. Faraw! shows the impact of visiting Europeans on the African family, and aims for a true sense of realism, rather than resorting to melodrama (although the film does include a dream sequence).
The film’s cinematographer, Yorgos Arvanitis, is better known as the regular collaborator of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos. Here, he uses his skill to recreate the immensity of the desert, and to suggest its vast, silent, cruelty. Ascofaré is full of praise for his lead actress, Aminata Ousmane, in her role as the mother of the sands.
But perhaps the real star of the film is the Sahara itself, in the way it affects the life of all those who live with it. Ascofaré has sought to replicate in his film the way the desert’s calm but persistent rhythm dominates the characters’ lives and controls their destiny.
Abdoulaye Ascofaré was born in 1949 in Gao, the once proud capital of the great Songhai empire, located on the Niger River in northeastern Mali. He studied theater, worked in radio, then won a fellowship to study filmmaking in the Soviet Union (as did many future African directors) In 1984 he graduated from the State Institute of Cinema in Moscow. He taught at the Institut des Arts in Bamako in 1985 and became a film maker in the Centre National de Production Cinématographique of Bamako in 1985. He has directed several short films: Welcome (1981), M’sieur Fane (1983), The Host (1984), and Sonatam, A Quarter of a Century (1990). Faraw! is his first full-length feature. It won the Best Female Actor Award for Aminata Ousmane at FESPACO 1997 and was shown at Cannes 1997 (Semaine Internationale de la Critique). —Cascade Festival