Directed by Moussa Sene Absa
Adelaide Film Festival
The word Xalé means child. The film, Xalé, follows the path of twin brother and sister, Adama and Awa, two Senegalese children who rapidly find themselves facing a very adult world. Awa (Nguissaly Barry) is a young man with a dream, to get together the money to board a boat to Europe and a better life, while Adama (Mabeye Diol) is a typical young teen girl, balancing school, a part time hairdressing job and her first boyfriend.
Their world is dramatically shifted with the dying wish of their grandmother. This sets off a chain of events that seems to thwart their life trajectory, yet strangely solidifies their direction and purpose.
Set against the backdrop of grey brutalist architecture in the outskirts of Dakar, writer and director Moussa Sene Absa tells an operatic tragedy through strong and thoroughly believable characters. Barry and Diol’s performances are utterly seamless, along with the rest of the cast. If it were not for the ever present narration of the singing griots (almost the equivalent of a greek chorus), one would believe they were watching something more like a documentary than a movie. There is none of the Hollywood flounce and flair, it is shot true to life, reminiscent of the minimalist style employed in the 2016 critically-acclaimed and Oscar winning Moonlight.
Also like Moonlight, the themes of this film are not for the faint-hearted. While there is light and shade, mercifully the deeper and darker occurrences are contrasted with moments of beauty that allow you to find hope. I don’t want to give anything away, so suffice to say Xalé will leave you questioning which side of the revenge vs redemption argument you sit on.