African Film Puts World Bank, IMF on Trial: The Glitterati Assembled at the Cannes Film Festival in May to Strut Their Stuff, but One Film Stood out, Bamako. It Made Uncomfortable Viewing for the Economists at the World Bank and IMF

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Africa's lone entry in this year's Cannes Film Festival in France aimed to speak for millions with its ambitious tale of putting the World Bank and IMF on trial for the monetary policies choking African nations.


Bamako, a jewel of a film from the Malian director, Abderrahmane Sissako, hoped to demonstrate the impact these policies were having on the lives of Africans. The film was shown in official selection, but out-of-competition at the 59th edition of the annual international film festival held in Cannes in southern France.

It depicts a makeshift court, including a judge in an ermine-trimmed red robe, set up in a poor quarter of the Malian capital, Bamako, in a courtyard as women look after their children and kids play football nearby.

The witnesses, including Mali's former culture minister, Aminata Traore, parade before the court to tell their stories. Most of those appearing in the witness box are, however, the anonymous and oppressed the real victims of the austerity budgets drawn up by the World Bank and IMF for struggling African nations. Debt repayments, which absorb an astonishing 40% of the budgets of Kenya and Zambia, is a recurrent leitmotif.

The film avoids trying to manipulate the court, and the institutions on trial also have a right to defence lawyers. But in a scene in which bank notes change hands, Sissako shows that corruption is not just a myth here. Above all his film seeks to speak for a continent.

"I was very aware that from my small position, and because I make films, I have to try to be the voice of millions of people," Sissako told the AFP in measured tones. …


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