20/02/2018

Allah Tantou - The Exploited

Quick Thoughts: Allah Tantou (God's Will, 1992)


Made by David Marof, this is the Guinean film of the series.


Allah Tantou, or God's Will, is a documentary centred around the reconstruction of Achkar Marof's, Guinea's UN Representative from 1964 to 1968, imprisonment. Made by his son, David Marof, with letters from his father, sent while he was in prison, this bears weight as we grow to come to terms with the fact that this is a true story. I do not believe that the manner in which reconstruction is managed and brought to the screen was the best decision for this film, however. Instead of feeling that you are witnessing reality, you have to remind yourself of this consistently. Without a real human presence, rather the presence of actors, letters and newsreels, it is difficult to emotional engage with the film in a manner that does not feel at surface level. It is always difficult to tell the stories of the lost. The Act Of Killing masterfully manages these difficulties, but, such a film is a rarity and one that, whilst I would like to have seen Allah Tantou reflect, was not brought to the screen by Marof.

Allah Tantou is nonetheless an important film for Guinea, African cinema and Africa more generally. This is because it was one of the first African films to directly and convincingly confront Human Rights abuses. There are many African films such as The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, Black and White In Colour and Xala that all deal with corruption and Human Rights abuses that predate Allah Tantou. These narrative films are very different; The Rise and Fall Of Idi Amin is considered an exploitation film that, with an abundance of absurdity and comedy, deals with African dictatorship; Black and White In Colour is a French-Ivorian (emphasis on the French) film that deals with war and colonialism through satire; Xala deals with state corruption in post-colonial Africa with hints of political satire embedded within drama. Whilst these films and Allah Tantou have similar subject matter - exploitation - the manner in which exploitation is handled by each film is radically different. Allah Tantou attempts to deal with real life, without many illusions or much fiction. Whilst its success in these terms can be debated, its distance from something such as The Rise and Fall Of Idi Amin cannot. The importance of Allah Tantou then lies in its directness, serious approach and attempts to humanise and impressionistically empathise with the presented figures. Such is not really achieved, in my opinion, with any of the mentioned films.

As a significant film about tragic irony, I'd recommend Allah Tantou. You can read more about the subject matter of the film and Camp Boiro (which is where Marof was imprisoned) at campboiro.org. You can even watch this film in its entirety on the site.

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