Ibrahim Dieng’s (Makhouredia Gueye) wives, Mety (Ynousse N’Diaye) and Aram (Isseu Niang) have a money order delivered from Dieng’s nephew in Paris. Very happy, but rather sceptical about the news, they’re concerned about telling their husband who has been out of work for years and treats them like dirt.
However, once Dieng finds out about the money order, he sees this as a way to turn their lives around and heads to the post office to collect on the money order. The problem is that once he gets there, Dieng finds out that getting the money is not going to be as easy as he thought. Not to mention that there are other people willing to do anything to get the money.
Mandabi (The Money Order) is a Senegalese film, written and directed by Ousmane Sembene, adapted from his novel, which has been restored for the Criterion collection. A drama with a simple, old fashioned man at its centre, who learns that getting what he’s entitled to is met with many levels of bureaucracy, red tape and corruption.
After initially setting up the film with Dieng’s wives, the film follows Dieng himself as he struggles to do what could have been the simplest of things.
Mandabi shows levels of hardship and corruption that are not only relevant to Senegal, but to many places around the world and Dieng experiences things to which we can all relate. A commentary of post-colonial Africa, Mandabi also shows what happens when the subject of money is raised and how those from political figures to even close relatives could be influenced by the lure of cash.
It also shows the poverty and difficulty that anybody could face in order to get by in life, ensuring that everybody has their place and stays that way.
Showing Senegal as a modern and yet simply functioning country, it shows what envy can do to people and how it seems that kindness could be a rare commodity. However, although Dieng starts off with the audience judging him for being lazy and ungrateful, in the end they may start to realise how difficult life is at the bottom.