L'APPEL DES ARENES (THE WRESTLING GROUNDS)
Senegal/France, 2005, 90 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Cheikh Ndiaye.
The Wrestling Grounds is a well-made film from Senegal, with French finance and expertise.
The film will make an impact on African audiences but will be somewhat mystifying to non-Africans. However, there are western touches, especially in the presentation of wrestling sequences.
The film makes its setting in the cities of Senegal, people accosting one another in the streets, muggings. However, the film makes a transition to a wrestling school and follows the career of a potential wrestler. The film indicates that wrestlers are national heroes in Senegal, especially with the rituals when they are victorious.
The storytelling and narrative are more indirect than western audiences might expect. It illustrates the various styles of mythmaking and folkloric storytelling in west Africa.
1.The impact of the film for African audiences? Non-Africans? The western touches? The specifically African, West African aspects?
2.The role of wrestling in Senegal, the wrestlers as national heroes, the rituals after their victories? Their reputations? Audiences, admiration? The wrestling schools? The modern critique of wrestling? The images of wrestling and the wrestling grounds?
3.The more western style of film-making: the opening, the man being accosted in the street and mugged, his being rescued by Andre? The friendship, the wrestling school? The gambling clubs? The affluent homes, especially of Nallah and his parents? The romance – and the touch of sex?
4.The specifically African aspects of the film: the telling of stories, the group and the ritual of the folklore, the ritual to prepare the wrestler, the hunter, the blood? The legends of lions and animals? The wrestling? The combination of tradition, religious ritual?
5.Nallah, his interest in wrestling, the rescue by Andre? His gratitude? Boxing, training? Joining the group? His mother’s animosity and slapping him? His father’s tolerance? Watching the wrestling on the television and his mother horrified? Her later relenting? His training, with the group, listening to the stories about the heroes, following Andre? His grief at Andre’s death? The funeral and the ritual? His following the new champion – audiences expecting him to take the place of the champion but he doesn’t? His sharing in the triumph at the end?
6.Andre, genial, mechanic, saving Nallah from the muggers? His work with the cars, testing them out? The training, friendship with Nallah, the strong bonds of intimacy and friendship? The fights? His going to his village, the smugglers, the criminals? His death and its pathos?
7.The background of criminals, gambling, cheating? The smugglers? The gangs? The women and their hanging on? An ugly picture of the crime atmosphere of Dacca?
8.The blend of East and West? The build-up the culmination with the confrontation? The champion, her sexuality, the night? The other opponent, his religious preparation? The victory?
9.Insights into African culture?