The lawyers, prosecutor and judge are real. The case, Africa versus the IMF and the World Bank, is conceivable. And the allegations on either side—neocolonial exploitation versus corruption—sound familiar. But the location of the trial is unexpected: a dusty courtyard in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Residents of surrounding houses wander through the session, more concerned about a failing marriage or poorly paid job than with the impassioned rhetoric of the lawyers.
In Bamako, director Abderrahmane Sissako puts globalization on trial. By doing so in an everyday setting, in the living environment of ordinary Africans, Sissako gives the weighty, abstract words of the court case a human context. Gradually, the anger grows—about poverty, institutional injustice and the hopelessness that drives Africans to migrate. But the director also has an eye for comedic asides, such as the cameo by executive producer Danny Glover, who appears on the neighbors’ TV as a cowboy in an African Western.