Tilai Review

When Saga (Rasmane Ouedraogo) returns to his village, he discovers that Nogma (Ima Cissé), the woman that he had been promised, has been married away to his own father. Saga refuses to stay with his family and builds a makeshift house a short distance away from the village. Nogma however still loves Saga and covertly visits him but their secret is soon discovered by Saga's father. The village is scandalised and they start to discuss what action should be taken against Nogma and Saga...

Idrissa Ouedraogo is probably the most famous African director in activity - he's one of the only to have claimed a major hit in the shape of Yaaba and his films have received rewards to the dozen. Despite being the critics darling, commercial viability has not always followed despite his ability to make films on a very tight budget (Tilaï only cost around 1,000,000€)... Filmed one year after Yaaba, Tilaï ("the law" in Moré) returns to the same setting of the Sahel in the northern regions of Burkina Faso, and keeps his naturalistic style intact thanks to his sparse cinematography and his casting of locals for all the parts in the film... Although most people associate African cinema with deadly slow pacing, Tilaï is very evenly paced with elements of the plot falling into place with the precision of a clockwork. The short length of the film (81 mins) probably helps to make the film more accessible to western audiences - no scene is superfluous nor is any shot self indulgent - but although the cinematography is not in the least bit flashy, Ouedraogo lets his cast bring all the film to life. In this they do not fail as they provide a vivid rendition of a village in turmoil with the lead characters giving in highly realistic performances.

Ouedraogo gives us another fine meditation on life in Africa - the film ponders over the issues of women's rights, the law and the binds of family and respect without ever appearing to do so - the mark of a great director. The film rightly received the Grand Prix du Jury at Cannes in 1990 cementing Ouedraogo renown at least in the French speaking world. His next feature film, his tenth, will be Bokary Koutou or The Era of the Heros which will be focusing on the French colonisation of the Mossi empire and Bokary Koutou successful resistance. With Matthieu Kassowitz already cast in a leading role, this will be Ouedraogo's largest project to date - one can only hope he will pull it off with brio...

The DVD:
The DVD has been released as a region 0 meaning that it can be played on any DVD player - the image however is encoded in PAL.

The image:From what I could make out the aspect ratio of the film was something like 1.40:1 which is an unconventional aspect ratio. Given the fact it wasn't presented in full screen and no scenes seemed to be cropped, I can only assume that this is the correct aspect ratio... The transfer is full frame - given the aspect ratio an anamorphic transfer wasn't too likely an option... The image is slightly lacking in definition at times and I detected a few occurrences of anti-aliasing and some minor artifacting... The print however is in quite a good state with only minor amounts of marks on it. These seem to occur mostly round the reel change points but the film remains very watchable despite this. The colours are also very well rendered and there's little that gets in the way of the viewing... Given the probable difficulty of finding acceptable sources for this, M3M have done much better than I would have expected and although the image is not perfect, they've done a fine job indeed...

The sound:We get the original soundtrack in Moré with the option of subtitles in French, English or Spanish. The sound is a little indistinct at times but the overall feel of it is pretty good with the soundtrack coming out particularly nicely... The subtitles are large and clear even against light backgrounds and are very good with no detectable grammar mistakes...

The menus:The musical theme plays in the background on all the menus - these are basic but nicely designed. We only get five chapter stops which may be seen as too little for some.

The extras:We get a detailed filmography cum biography of Ouedraogo - this is not the usual cut and paste job and has evidently been done with great care. Added to this we also get a short feature (6 mins) of Ouedraogo talking straight to the camera about African cinema... Sadly this is not subtitled, but for those who understand French, it is very interesting indeed. He eloquently describes the complexities of African cinema and the economical reasons why it's still a pariah but the film is sadly too short and we're left wanting more from the man...

Conclusions:This is M3M's second DVD and they are hoping to release much more African cinema on DVD. From the present effort, we can only be impressed at their work - they have managed to put together a decent DVD of an excellent film and hopefully their next releases will see them also subtitle the extras in English... For those who haven't seen any African cinema yet, Tilaï would be an excellent starting point.

You can order the DVD either directly from M3M or on Cinéstore (both are in French though Cinéstore provide some help in English).

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