Reportedly the most successful homegrown film in its native Burkina Faso, longtime director Daniel Kollo Sanou’s leisurely, deliriously barbed Tasuma, the Fighter is a subtle and impressive effort: Its pointed critique of post-colonial bureaucratic indifference and myopic bourgeois ambition, and its knowing study of a proud, frequently foolish rabble-rouser (Mamadou Zerbo in the title role), are bolstered rather than diminished by a light comic framework. The film follows Sogo, a/k/a Tasuma, an aged veteran of France’s colonial army who’s been awaiting his paltry military pension for decades. On a whim (or perhaps not), he buys a grain mill on credit to ease the toil of the women in his hilltop village—and, not incidentally, to impress his fellow townspeople. His inability to pay for the machine leads to a series of setbacks and triumphs, not the least of which involve the village’s women forming a club-and-chicken-wielding mob and Sogo confronting an officious prefect at rifle-point. Wry commentary is provided in song, and the action somehow culminates with the explosion of a cow. Like Sogo himself, Tasuma camouflages its razor-sharp indignation with warmth and disarming grace.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 20, 2004