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Rocking Popenguine (Ca Twiste à Poponguine)

Senegal, 1993, 90 min


Director: Moussa Sene Absa
Writer: Moussa Sene Absa
Cast: Coura Ba, Jean-François Balmer, Ousmane Bo
Language: French with English subtitles


This bittersweet, coming of age story is a kind of African equivalent of George Lucas' American Graffiti, Spike Lee's Crooklyn or Godard's Masculin/Feminin.



The film »Twist à Popenguine« portrays the influence of the American and French cultures upon the peoples of the town of Popenguine, Senegal during the mid-1960's. Absa does a good job of showing this cultural mix by focusing on a struggle between two cliques of teenagers and adds just enough humor to keep the film on a light note and interesting. The cliques have similarities in that they have both forsaken their parents' traditional garb for more Western/European styles and they listen to artists such as James Brown and Jimmy Hendrix. What separates the two groups involves what they have and don't have. The »Kings« have the only record player in town, but no girls in their group. The »Inseparables« have the girls, but no record player.

Absa also shows the influence of the French colonialism with the school teacher Mr. Benoit who is sent from France to teach the children of Popenguine French language and literature. A subplot involves his struggles and acceptance by the townspeople. The actual conflict between the two groups, the Kings and the Ins, is the main storyline of the film and Absa uses that storyline to convey the theme that involves the changing from the native African Wolof culture brought on by the influence of American and French culture to a mixed culture.


Absa's use of untrained actors/actresses works well in this film by giving it a flavor of reality. I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in seeing things from a non-western point of view or anyone wanting to see how different cultures interact and intertwine. If you do not like subtitled/foreign films, I would not recommend this movie unless you have a grasp of the French language. There is some fun poked at the differences involving Islam and Christianity, so if you are not tolerant or can't find humor in religion, you may be slightly offended.



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