Karmen Geï

Director: Joseph Gaï Ramaka
Country: Senegal
Year: 2001
Running Time: 82 min
Language: French and Wolof with English subtitles

Prosper Merimée’s novella, adapted in Bizet’s celebrated opera, has already received 52 film interpretations, yet Karmen Geï is the first African Carmen and, arguably, the first African filmed “musical.” Accordingly, Gaï Ramaka has completely replaced Bizet’s score and the usual staging with indigenous Senegalese music and choreography. Like every Carmen, Karmen Geï is about the conflict between infinite desire for freedom and the laws, conventions, languages, the human limitations which constrain that desire. Since this is an African Carmen, freedom necessarily has a political dimension. The opening scene is set in a women’s prison on Gorée Island, site of the notorious slave castle. Karmen and the women in the prison use dance and music as a weapon of resistance against dehumanizing regimentation as has so often been the case throughout the African Diaspora.

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