(aka "Waiting for Happiness")


directed by Abderrahmana Sissako
France / Mauritania 2002


One of the attracting and refreshing features of African cinema, which also can be extended onto most world cinema, is, that it doesn’t have to make up anything, but deals with issues important to both the natives and in length of that to the nation. It may be religion, education or, as here in “Waiting for Happiness”, cultural differences. It has often been pointed out, that Iranic cinema deals with self reflection: This also is true for this particular branch of African cinema, as Sissako himself points out: "Creation is a search of oneself... And not only creation, but also all that one does."

On the edge of the desert lies a small coastal town. While it is as rural as can be, its location allows it to serve as a transit town, for those traveling to Europe. Here, Abdallah is visiting his mother become traveling to Europe. Unfamiliar with local costume and the dialect, he is a stranger in a strange land, that it self is estranged, as it on one side maintains local costumes and on the other side tries to allow progress to enter. We are constantly introduced to elements, which doesn’t seem to fit in: red sneakers, television, karaoke and even something as simple as a children’s toy, while at the same time being shown how tradition is taught from elders to the young.

Throughout “Waiting for Happiness”, Sissako sets up situations where people have to talk to each other. It is curious, that in a film almost empty of dialogue, the act of communication is one of the central themes. “The intention to communicate is more important than communication itself. If somebody wants to speak to me, it means I exist in their eyes.” says Sissako.

Sissako made “Waiting for Happiness” without any script and with non actors, having taken characters already existing and put into the location, also already existing. As he says: “It is all there for the camera to capture”. For Sissako it is important that it is the images that tell the story, that with almost poetic simplicity examinants the conflict between western progress and native (Islamic) tradition – with a healthy portion of self irony and humour.

Winner of the both the FIPRESCI “Un Certain Regard” prize and the France Culture Award in Cannes 2002, “Waiting for Happiness” is a rare gem of world cinema, allowing pictures to convey situations. It is a demanding film, but as Tsai Ming-Liang, a director very similar to Sissako, if one takes his time, one will be rewarded.
out of     

Henrik Sylow

Theatrical Release: May 19th, 2002 (Cannes Film Festival)

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL

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Artificial Eye

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:31:27

1,61 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.44 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s


NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles English, None (16x9 friendly)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1,61

Edition Details:
• Biography
• Interview (26:00)
• October (short feature 36:08 black/white DD 2.0 4:3)

DVD Release Date: March 29, 2004
Transparent Keepcase

Chapters 12

Comments This is a nice presentation of rare and valuable entry of cinema. It seems as if the presentation is 1.61 (16x9), but as my TV is overscanning, I am not sure. The picture looks great and the sound is quiet detailed and "surround" for a 2.0 source.

The interview is edited together from a longer interview, using fades to cut between "paragraphs". It is very informative and allows one to understand not only Sissako as an artist, but also allows one to understand the images. Language is French and the subtitles are burned.

Also on the DVD is a rare gem: The 1997 short "October", which Sissako shot in Moscow. It is most likely 8mm black and white source (perhaps 16mm). The sound is monaural and the picture suffers from heavy ghosting and is also very grainy. However, it is a great little film, dealing with people in exile, and makes a nice contrast to "Waiting for Happiness" in both motif and themes.

 - Henrik Sylow


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