Film Studies

Faat Kine

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Faat Kine is a Senegalese film written and directed by Ousmane Sembene and takes a critical look at the effects of modern colonialism had on Senegal.  Faat Kine’s storyline revolves around Faat Kine as she struggles to maintain and manage a local gas station while providing for her two kids as a single mother.  Watching Faat Kine provided a unique experience by allowing me to see a film that didn’t originate from Hollywood.  Although having to follow along with subtitles made it difficult and the quality of the film made it appear it was released in the late 80s rather than 2000, Faat Kine provided the audience with some interesting ideas a critical view on the social issues prevalent in Senegal today.

The first major concept I found interesting in Faat Kine was the way the story was presented.  Although the story begins in the present time and primarily focuses on Faat Kine’s life, we obtain a deeper understanding of Faat Kine’s past through flashbacks.  These flashbacks allow the viewer to experience the hardships Faat Kine encountered on a deeper level.  According to a review by Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times, Ousmane Sembene “allows us to take in the moments and hold them as closely as we need to while he moves on to the next part of his narrative, because he knows it all has to add up.”  Flashbacks allow the viewer to connect to Faat Kine on a deeper level as opposed to simply hearing it through the dialogue.  Flashbacks allow us to have visual of Faat Kine’s experiences.  Additionally, the flashback technique allows the viewer to gain more detail of the event.  Elvis Mitchell agrees with this by stating the flashback scenes “could be whipped up into a tempest of tear-jerking, but Mr. Sembène is a far more adroit and elegant storyteller than many may be accustomed to seeing. For him, it’s the accretion of detail that adds up to a satisfying story.”  If the viewer were to understand Faat Kine’s past through dialogue, they would not receive the same amount of detail a flashback would provide.

Another concept in Faat Kine that I found interesting was the use of music.  Unlike many films produced in Hollywood, USA, Faat Kine lacked a large amount of background music.  Nonetheless, the music enabled me to follow the story.  The majority of the time the viewer hears the thematic music in Faat Kine is when a flashback occurs.  The music signifying a flashback helps the film stay organized and allows the viewer to understand the film clearly rather than be confused on what is or what isn’t a flashback.  Because I rarely see foreign films like Faat Kine, the music truly helped me understand what was happening in the film.  Although it seemed the music queued a flashback, it also was used for two other reasons.  First, the music helped transition discontinuity.  For example, in one scene we see Faat Kine in her gas station while the next scene we see her at a bank.  The same ‘flashback type’ music played to help create a sense of smoothness from one scene to the next.  The other way music was used was to create suspense.  In the scene we see where Faat Kine’s father attempts to attack her with a stock of fire, loud and suspense music supplements the action on-screen.  Although it seemed like music was lacking in some scenes where there was some awkward silences, the music helped signify what is a flashback and what isn’t and add to the suspense and fear in some scenes.

The film Faat Kine takes a critical look at post-colonial Senegal and the social issues surrounding its people.  According to Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times, Mr. Sembene’s “blithe naturalism — his films seem to coast into view and before you know it you’re hooked — draws the audience slowly into the rhythms of another world.”  The director accomplishes this by focusing on many social issues affecting the people of Senegal.  In Faat Kine, there is a general conflict between what is considered traditional and modern.  The scene where Djip confronts Faat Kine’s previous partners, we can see the conflict of tradition and modern clearly.  Other issues Faat Kine brings up is women’s rights and conflict between Christianity and Muslim religion.  The issue of religion can be seen through the difficulty in whether Uncle Jean, a Catholic, and Faat Kine, a Muslin, should become involved.

Overall, Faat Kine was an interesting film that provided a glimpse of what life in Senegal is like and the issues surrounding the people.  The use of flashbacks and music help the viewer to follow the clear story while simultaneously obtaining a deeper understanding of Faat Kine.   I felt the film lacked strong acting and felt some scenes were awkward.  This judgment may be attributed to the fact I have only seen a handful of foreign films and had to rely on subtitles.  Nonetheless, I felt Faat Kine was a great experience in understanding what life in Senegal is truly like.


Written by matthewpickle

March 2, 2011 at 2:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Matt, what an excellent post! It was a very enjoyable read. What I enjoyed reading most was your comments on the music. They were so insightful, and something I didn’t even pick up on in the film. I’m really glad that you noticed, and that you were able to clarify what the music was used for in the film! It was very specific, but seamless with the film. I’m also glad you mentioned the post-colonial aspects of the film, I definitely think they are very important! Overall, great job and I cannot wait to read more!


    March 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

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