African free-love revolution infects The Plaza

Joseph Gaï Ramaka’s debut feature film takes a French opera and superimposes it on reality in Senegal. The setting changes from Paris in the late nineteenth century to Dakar, 2000 and Ramaka twists reality into Georges Bizet’s operatic tragedy, Carmen.

The story of Carmen takes on much more when put into an African setting. Ramaka maintains the aspects of tragedy while adding depth to Carmen’s myth on a global level. He shows Karmen as a sexual revolutionary in a continent where aids is more of a burden than the regime in power.

In Karmen, Ramaka creates a woman who makes everyone realize that they should receive sexual pleasure, regardless of sexual preference. She leaves in her wake hordes of grinning men and women, ecstatic that they had the one-on-one training for the revolution.

Ramaka introduces African dancing as a facet of Karmen’s contagious freedom and sexuality. She fools both sexes; men and women mistake her brisk affection as genuine love.

Even in this modern adaptation, it is easy to understand why this myth has been repeatedly censored. Karmen is a sexual revolutionary, as she spreads her legs, an infectious ecstasy is transferred from one to another, each person left with a desire to further the revolution in her name.

The "revolution" is poorly developed, it seems almost as though Ramaka uses it as more of a vehicle to show a few breasts here and there, but the tone is right. The overpowering militaristic government could be one of many in today’s Africa, with justice dealt by a handful of officers rather than a judicial system.

Karmen Geï combines horrible truths in a subtle fashion, where African percussion and vocal ability drive the story. Showing the military as a group of bumbling idiots, and with the death-grip of aids that holds many African nations, the tragedy continues to unfold.

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