There is no darker stain on the sad, sordid history of man's inhumanity to man than the slave trade which flourished for centuries. Those of us raised in the Roots generation assume, as is our egocentric wont, that all (or at least most) slavery took place in the Americas. What this fascinating and heartbreaking African feature points out, sometimes in shocking detail, is that the American slave-trade was a very small part of the total (according to the informative extra, between 2-5%) and that, perhaps even more shockingly, the bulk of enslaved Africans were not captured by the stereotypical evil White Trader, but by other Africans.
Andanggaman follows the tribulations of Ossei, a young man living in late 17th century Africa who, at the beginning of the feature, is shown to be having that most universal of problems, a generational gap conflict with his father, who has decreed that Ossei marry the girl of his father's choosing, rather than the girl that Ossei really loves. The argument soon becomes moot when Ossei's village is burned and the bulk of the villagers are taken prisoners by women warriors working for the region's despotic king, Adanggaman.
Ossei, who has escaped the initial carnage by not being in the village at the time of the attack, soon realizes his father is missing and his mother has been taken captive. The rest of the film follows his attempts to free his mother, where he comes into contact with a fascinating and interrelated assortment of characters (to say more would spoil one of the neat surprises about 3/4 of the way through the film).
The film is beautifully shot on stunning locations in the Ivory Coast, and features uniformly brilliant performances by a cast that one would assume had never acted professionally before. Also noteworthy is a gorgeous soundtrack filled with expressive indigenous instruments and tribal chants, all utilized perfectly to advance the story and give it even added emotional underpinnings.
This is a film rich in historical detail and providing a much needed Afro-centric reading of the whole slavery debacle, and will hopefully open a lot of eyes about the sad African complicity in the furtherance of slavery's outrage.
The unenhanced 1.78:1 image is generally excellent. The image is a bit soft, no doubt part of the source elements, but the transfer is first rate.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is brilliantly realized, especially important since so much of the film features music and chant.
An informative 10 minute lecture by the occasionally didactic Dr. Fritz Umbach gives some illuminating background information on the historical context and imagery of the film. In fact, I'd recommend watching the documentary before the feature, as it gives away no spoilers and provides in-depth information that only augments understanding the film. There's also an excellent interview with director Roger Gnoan M'Bala contained in the insert.
Slavery had few, if any, happy endings, and Adanggaman certainly does not shy away from that stark historical reality. Mixing a heartbreaking story with breathtaking scenery and a distinctive soundtrack, this is a film journey well worth taking.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet