Saturday, June 22, 2024


THE STORY – Banel and Adama are a young couple who live in a remote village in northern Senegal. Duty dictates that Adama must soon accept the role of chief — but the two lovers have other plans.

THE CAST – Khady Mane & Mamadou Diallo

THE TEAM – Ramata-Toulaye Sy (Director/Writer)


Plotting a developing romance can often be an intriguing venture. Witnessing how two individuals find themselves in the throes of passion can be an engaging spectacle, particularly if this relationship requires some kind of test of resilience. There can be multiple forces that come to disrupt such a union, and the ensuing perseverance can be an uplifting spectacle. At the same time, something else could be brewing beneath the surface, making such a dynamic more complicated. The feelings an audience has about the success of such a coupling could turn more complex, which in turn will provide a rich backdrop of exploration. These are the elements at play within “Banel & Adama,” a compelling examination of a doomed alliance that presents both an inviting and ominous portrait.

Set in a remote village in Senegal, Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) are the two lovers at the center of this tale. Both are very young but are passionately in love. Their marriage came from the result of Banel’s previous husband dying, and the two are planning a life together. The community wants Adama to take on the role of the village chief, but he instead pines for a solitary life with his spouse as they dig out houses buried under sand in an effort to create their ideal existence. However, the moment he refuses this responsibility is exactly when a series of tragic events befall this location. A drought has stopped the development of their crops, livestock are succumbing to disease, and several residents are passing away from their own illnesses. Adama is concerned that he has caused this suffering, while Banel remains steadfast in the connection with her partner. As conditions worsen, their bond will be put through a strain that will determine if they have the strength to endure.

There is something quite absorbing in the way Ramata-Toulaye Sy crafts this study, which begins with a vibrant affection inhabiting a dreamlike quality. Certain earlier scenes take on a lyrical aura that showcases an appreciation for lush imagery. Once the mood shifts to a more serious outlook, so does the tone. Admittedly, that change in atmosphere is not always delicately handled, and the more nefarious setting doesn’t have a natural progression from the sunnier disposition as before. It can make for a jarring emotional adjustment that creates an unharmonious dissonance. The strength of the filmmaking makes a worthy effort to compensate for the tonal whiplash, demonstrating striking compositions that feed into the unsettling atmosphere that taps into an unnerving horror in an effective manner.

The foundation that his narrative is built upon focuses on this rapport that is simple yet endearing. Banel and Adama have a sweetness at the center that makes a powerful impact, which is felt even more sincerely when they become poisoned by the unfortunate circumstances surrounding them. Banel’s characterization is given more complexity, which also makes her a frustrating figure to watch. There’s both a defiance against the traditional role she feels compelled to break free from but also an annoying petulance that can’t face reality. It’s what makes her more human and much more captivating. Adama’s conflict is more cleanly presented, which may offer less nuance but does provide a clear foil that creates engrossing tension. It’s a perspective that isn’t consistently enthralling but still gripping.

The performances of Mane and Diallo are the main forces that drive this story, and both inhabit these roles with a riveting presence. At times, one can sense a bit of stiffness with the material, especially from Mane when she is required to deliver more of the larger outbursts. However, she is able to tap into a sinister undercurrent that keeps her motivations shrouded in a disturbing mystery. For Diallo, the earnest conviction he portrays exhibits a familiar yet fascinating arc all the same, and his turn is also well-realized. Together, they make both an arresting yet haunting duo that plays into the themes of isolation and rebellion against tradition. There is a believable chemistry between them that is necessary to understand the unrest that brews simultaneously, and both capture this essence effectively.

On the surface, there may not be much innovation that “Banel & Adama” offers regarding its storytelling. The basis of this tale has a specter of novelty that masks a straightforward narrative with characters that could be more alluring. The momentum doesn’t leave the greatest impression, as it can sometimes get sluggish with the constraints of the plot. Yet, the direction finds enough within the frame to bring alive a textured environment with provocative performances. The resulting effort is a flawed yet impressive exhibition of the trials that occur when choosing between self-gratification and communal honors.


THE GOOD - The filmmaking creates striking imagery to highlight an intriguing narrative. The leads' performances are compelling, as is the dynamic between the characters.

THE BAD - The tonal shifts are awkwardly executed, and the characterizations can be too simplified to be engaging. Sometimes, the performances come across as stiff.



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Josh Parham
Josh Parham
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The filmmaking creates striking imagery to highlight an intriguing narrative. The leads' performances are compelling, as is the dynamic between the characters.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The tonal shifts are awkwardly executed, and the characterizations can be too simplified to be engaging. Sometimes, the performances come across as stiff.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"BANEL & ADAMA"