Film, aside from music, is the strongest way to pass a message to the masses. A good, catchy and creative moving images lead consumers rushing for the product being highlighted in what is known as commercials or advertisements. This is a factor that Cameroonian director, Daniel Kamwa, seems to understand too well as he passes important messages in MAH SAAH SAH (I Don’t Discuss), his 95- minute film that has been shown by the Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skill-development mentorship programme and market for children and youth in eastern Africa in schools, colleges, universities, festivals and churches in Kenya throughout 2010.
MAH SAAH SAH(that was shown during the Lola Kenya Screen’s critical writing and creative documentary film workshops at the Kenya national Theatre, Nairobi, November 29-December 4, 2010)is set in modern rural Cameroon and starres hopeful lovers Nchare and Mapon on one side and a ruthless and scheming local politician Moluh on the other.
Nchare is taken in by his bronze sculptor uncle, Achirou, after his father’s death. It is in this village that he falls in love with Mapon, a potter’s daughter.
We see the determination and bravery of Nchare when he fights bitterly with his rivals in the seduction dance ceremony and finally wins Mapon’s heart. Thereafter, the two are engaged, set to be married, according to tradition.
However, soon after Mapon’s baby brother is taken ill, her father resolves to ask for deputy Moluh’s help in tfooting of the hospital bills.
Moluh offers his help readily but he is a man with a hidden agenda; he is after Mapon as a form of payment to make her his fourth wife. Mapon decides to hold a meeting and categorically states her case to the elder, especially when her father foregoes her engagement to Nchare and prefers the deputy arguing that it is only the middle-aged politician and not the younger but penniless Nchare who will provide for his daughter’s needs so she can in turn take care of him in his old age.
In the film we see that the director has used the style of flashback in relevance to the story. We see Nchare remembering how he and Mapon met and also the circumcision ceremony that he underwent. The two flashbacks not only develop but also enrich the story in that they give us some background information and history, which is a great plus for Kamwa.
The most striking themes brought out in MAH SAAH SAH are traditions and marriage ceremonies. The society in this case upholds every bit of their tradition, starting with male circumcision to the seduction dance ceremony. Anyone who does not go through the tradition is regarded as a pariah. This is clearly brought out in the opening scene of the film whereby Nchare becomes a source of ridicule among the women who believe he is uncircumcised.
We also find that the society recognises authority in the land, which comes out clearly through the treatment they accord to Nji Mah Nkam, their village elder. Before the seduction dance, the elder is showered with praises and heralded by a musician. At the meeting all the characters have to respectfully bow before the elder before they address the gathering, thus bringing out their reverence to him in particular and authority in general.
The Cameroonian society around whom this film revolves, too, appear to value and uphold their African cultural values despite having embraced Christianity.
By highlighting the cultural practices of the society, the director has done a good job in encouraging other countries to value their cultures, something one has to admit is lacking in Kenya.
Another theme that is brought out clearly and which I think affects almost all African countries is the abuse of power by elected leaders as represented by Moluh the deputy. While he depicts himself as a people’s man through his generosity, the hidden motive is to get votes. The people are not moved by his sudden gestures of goodwill as seen through Mapon’s and Nchare’s confrontation with him in his house.
Just like many African politicians, Moluh will get rid of anyone who attempts to hinder his interests. And the way in which he deals with Nchare is a clear demonstration of this.
This film also highlights the role of the woman in the society under review. Although she is subject to the husband’s authority, she is also a strong decision-maker whose decisions are treated with seriousness. An example is when Mapon warns Moluh to stay away from her and also calls for the meeting for the elder to hear her out in her dilemma. She also does not get intimidated by a man like Moluh. Her mother, too, disagrees with her husband over his treatment of Nchare.
All in all the director has used an unfolding sequel of events in order to develop the themes in the story; when Nchare meets Mapon, the engagement ceremony and the failed attempt by Moluh to marry Mapon. The sub-titling is well fitted in, helping the non-Francophone viewer to move with the unfolding story.
This film, I daresay, also encourages the youth to stand up and fight for what is right; which is seen when the hopeful lovers warn Moluh over his ulterior motives.
Adima Mesa, a Form Two student at Precious Blood Secondary School in Riruta, Nairobi, Kenya, wrote this film review as part of her assignment during the Critical Writing mentorship programme at Lola Kenya Screen in Nairobi, November 29-December 4, 2010