Digital Participation: Le petite vendeuse de soleil (The Girl Who Sold the Sun) – a film review
The forty-something minutes that comprised of “The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun” were pretty fantastic. Produced in 1999 in Dakar, this film is rather retro for today’s cinematic standards. Viewers are quickly introduced to the protagonist- a young girl named Sili Laam who decides to sell (or for a more appropriate term, to hawk) newspapers (le Soilel/ the Sun) in a boy-dominated industry. However, Sili is crippled and forced to navigate Dakar on crutches. Stylistically, the contrast between this young crippled girl and the ruckus of Dakar is astounding. In such a loud bustling congested city, there are scenes where (in terms of audio) all you can hear is Sili walking on her crutches with distant noises of traffic. This creates an intimacy between her and the viewer, not to mention that this stark differentiation eludes to her vulnerability, especially when she is hawking newspapers on the highway where there are blatant displays of roadkill. The thing about Sili, though, is that she is one of the most precocious and determined children one could ever imagine. There is a very aesthetically-pleasing scene where an image of Sili’s face is superimposed over newspapers being printed. In this short yet memorable sequence, she is declaring that she is capable of doing anything (if not better) that boys can do, which demonstrates her immense self-determination to overcome adversity as a crippled girl. Throughout the movie, even when her male competitors try to sabotage her, she counteracts any notion of perceived fragility through her strong attitude, tenacity and generosity to others. Furthermore, I really enjoyed this film due to it’s portrayal of Senegalese culture. There is a scene where Sili is wrongfully accused of theft when a business man (impressed by her valor) purchases all of her newspapers (and the police view her possession of so much money as suspicious) the manner in which the police were receptive to Sili’s explanation (albeit aggressive) seemed to convey the strides Senegal has made in trying to lower/eliminate governmental and police corruption. Sili even convinces them to release a woman who is also wrongfully accused of theft! Along similar lines, it is mention in the film that le Soilel is the “government newspaper.” When Sili and her friend Babou Seck (who sells the “people’s newspaper” called Sud) are arguing about which newspaper is better, Sili makes a poignant statement that “the more Soilels are sold, the closer the government will get to the people.” Probably my favorite line of the movie, especially after conducting so much research this semester on attempted democratization in Senegal. Additionally, this movie serves as great commentary in terms of demonstrating Senegal’s “civil society” where the city-goers of Dakar seem to be quite informed (through newspaper readership) about the politics of the time period, such as Africa trying to veer away from the franc zone. Lastly, the “small-scale” newspaper distribution industry that Sisi is part of seems to reinforce the large-scale economic issues surrounding Dakar- with the port, cargo and trading ships serving as a visual testimony to these circumstances. If I were to critique this film, though, it would have to involve the lighting. It seemed as though the producers failed to properly “white balance” on set, for the movie was incredibly bright at times. I wasn’t sure if this brightness, which became distracting after a while, was accidental or intentional. By the end of the movie, though, I realized it was done for stylistic reasons- for Sisi and Babou (who is carrying Sisi on his back after Sisi’s crutches are stolen) are walking into the shining white light glistening through the doorway. Symbolically, I couldn’t help but interpret this entry into the light as Sisi and Babou walking in the unknown- one step closer to reaching some semblance of economic stability. Perhaps the glow symbolized that everything will be okay in the long run.
P.S. you can now find this review on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0196848/reviews-9