Min Ye... (Tell Me Who You Are)

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African auteur Souleymane Ciss’s first feature in more than a decade is an astonishing Scenes from a Marriage--esque parable, anchored by Sokona Gakou’s force-of-nature performance. She’s Mimi—one of two wives to filmmaker Issa (Assane Kouyat)—whose transparent liaison with a fishmonger (Alou Sissoko) sets in motion an exhaustive series of arguments, legal wranglings and power plays. The film is deeply rooted in the characters’ middle-class Malian milieu, something the digital-video aesthetic makes more vivid and intimate, especially during some gorgeous chiaroscuro nighttime scenes. There’s no nose-thumbing at Mimi and Issa’s conflicts, which ebb and flow according to the dictates of the society they inhabit (the law, inevitably, favors the man even as it’s clear that Ciss, the artist, favors the woman). Whereas Ingmar Bergman brought his Scenes couple to a moment of transcendent respite, Ciss sees Mimi and Issa’s conflict as a thorny, near-unnavigable tangle. His beautifully bleak conclusion—visualized as a slow procession through a lush-green forest toward a vast, foreboding desert—suggests that only emotional desolation and spiritual barrenness await. Monday, Oct 5 at 9pm; Tuesday, Oct 6 at 6pm—Keith Uhlich

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New York Film Festival 2009

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