While Alain Gomis's previous two feature films,
L'Afrance (2001) and Andalucia (2007), unfold in Europe and deal with alienation and isolation in exile, "Tey" [ Today, in Wolof], nominated for the Golden Bear for Best Film at this year's Berlinale, follows a Senegalese man in Dakar, during the last day of his life.
Everything is silent when SatchÃ© (beautifully and subtly portrayed by Saul Williams) wakes up at his mother's house, but as the morning progresses more and more people join the family for what is essentially SatchÃ©'s wake. Beautiful words in his tribute, but also accusations, fill the room as the gathering, devastated by their imminent loss, pay tribute to the man everyone knows will die before the end of day.
Tey plays out as a promenade through Dakar, which starts out as a celebration in honour of the chosen one. During the course of the walk, which will take him home to his wife (Anisia Uzeyman) and children, SatchÃ© is confronted with different defining aspects of a life of which we know nothing.
An elusive meeting with a mistress (AÃ¯ssa MaÃ¯ga). An argument among a group of frustrated friends. Violent street demonstrations under the war cry "Y'en a marre!" ("Enough is enough!") and a simulated ceremonial cleansing of SatchÃ©'s soon-to-be dead body gently performed by an uncle (Jean Mendy). Each incident on his way reflects a fragment and an integral part of the irregular tapestry that seem to have constituted SatchÃ©'s life, a returnee to a country that others are risking their lives to leave. Accompanying SatchÃ© on his walk is his trusted companion Sele, played by natural born actor Djolof Mbengue, who in a similar way has accompanied Alain Gomis throughout his career, playing leading roles in all his three features.
The only description more frightening for a film distributor hoping to make her money back than "slow", is "African slow". Luckily the brilliant and confident director Gomis does not care. In a painstakingly deliberate pace, only sporadically interrupted by eruptions of exaltation or rage, he invites us to share moments of harmony, fear and regret as well as SatchÃ©'s determination to keep on walking and milking every remaining second of a life that was happy at times, disappointing at others, but never without meaning.
by Katarina HedrÃ©n
"Review first published on Katarina's blog: In the Words of Katarina