Winner Bright Horizons Award 2023 Melbourne International Film
Banel & Adama is the breathtaking debut feature from Senegalese writer-director Ramata-Toulaye Sy. Shot with an evocative beauty in a remote village in Senegal and featuring a local cast of non-professional actors, this richly colourful film is a romance following two young lovers as they strive for independence and self-possession in the face of domineering tradition.
Banel and Adama are blissfully in love. Their marriage comes after the death of Banel’s first husband – Adama’s brother, Yero – a union community elders initially saw as an act of honour. But suspicions about the couple’s all-consuming passion grow when Adama refuses to assume Yero’s role as chief and Banel scorns her domestic duties. When drought besets the region, villagers fear the disobedient lovers have incited a curse.
Premiering in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival — the sole debut film granted that honour —Banel & Adama is a lyrical odyssey that takes a hypnotic descent into a world of folklore, fate, madness and obsession. Sy delivers a lesson in craft, building lush, inspired, and strong-willed characters who command perspective, seeking to carve out a future for themselves in a narrative atmosphere hauntingly alive from sand to sky and the ever-present, baking sun.