Tall as the Baobab Tree
Grand comme le Baobab
An intimately and exquisitely performed film, effortlessly moving and utterly involving.
Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.
Coumba and her little sister Debo are the first in their family to go to school. They live with their father, mother and elder brother in a remote African village, where meals are prepared over open fires and water is drawn from wells. Their father is a devout Muslim and the family depend on their cows and goats as the only source of income. When the sisters are at school their brother tends the cows on the almost arid land, and sometimes feeds them the leaves of the giant baobab tree. In an unfortunate turn of events, the brother falls from the baobab tree and breaks his leg. Suddenly the unaffordable medical bill threatens the family’s survival, and their father decides to sell 11-year-old Debo into an arranged marriage. Torn between loyalty to her elders and her dreams for the future, Coumba hatches a secret plan to rescue her young sister from a fate she has not chosen. An exquisitely performed and beautifully photographed drama that is a marvel to watch.
When I first visited the village of Sinthiou Mbadane, Senegal, in 2009, the trip by horse cart traversed wide-open fields that stretched, uninterrupted, across the horizon. After turning off the paved roads, the concrete houses of the city would melt away, giving in to rolling hills populated only by massive baobab trees. Clusters of straw huts would eventually pop up between the trees, surrounded by herds of cows. This was Sinthiou Mbadane. Even though it was only a few miles from the city, it felt like a completely separate world. Just four years later, village life is in the midst of a transformation. A new generation, with access to school for the first time in history, is coming of age. Roads from the city stretch deeper into the countryside and straw huts are steadily being replaced by new, concrete buildings. Culturally, the villagers are simultaneously embracing and wary of these changes… how will their traditions and culture fit in with this new world? As a young American witnessing this transformation first-hand, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own culture back home. Just as some villagers resist adapting their traditions to a changing world, Americans are also fiercely struggling over divisive issues of social and cultural evolution. I wanted to tell a story that captures the emotions of the old and new worlds colliding. Tall as the Baobab Tree explores the tensions, quiet victories, and heartbreaks that come with this change.
A 2010 graduate from Dartmouth College, where he studied Film, English and Theatre. Grand comme le baobab, his first narrative feature film, was inspired by true stories revealed to him while filming his groundbreaking 2010 documentary short, This is Us – nominated for a Student Academy Award in 2011. Backed by a Lombard Public Service Fellowship and sponsorship from Kodak, the documentary premiered at the American Embassy in Dakar, Senegal in November 2010. His latest narrative short, Foursquare Day, screened at the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival in 2011.
2004 Ghost [s]
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