The Sokone Film Festival

Every evening, I spend quality time with my host family. When I say “quality time”, I mean a number of activities including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Watching the women cook
  • Watching the men pray
  • Going to my sister’s friend’s house for boisson (Sprite, Coke, or a delicious pineapple soda called Annanas)
  • Walking to the market with my sisters to buy fruit
  • Watching the news in French and/or Wolof
  • Drinking tea
  • Counting the number of times one of the babies throws a tantrum
  • Avoiding the stampede of farm animals in my compound

Naturally, all of these things are accomplished while a steady stream of gossip clouds float through the air, creating a haze that limits visibility. Wolofs, as a culture, really know how to talk. Their volume is deafening and their words-per-minute are record breaking. This, my loyal minions, is the soundtrack to my life.

On occasion, my family decides to mix it up a little and watch a movie that is airing on television. Usually, the films are obscure and foreign (foreign meaning not American). Lucky for me, from time to time a film I do know comes on. Of course, the film is always dubbed in French, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. This is because my attention is focused on my family’s running commentary. It is hilarious.

EXAMPLE 1: The other night, I walked outside and found my family watching Zorro. After hearing I had seen the film, they kept asking me when Zorro showed up. Oh, and in case you were wondering, “Zorro” in Wolof is “Zorro” (“mask” is the same, too). I told them to be patient, and no, Anthony Hopkins was NOT Zorro. The men thought Catherine Zeta-Jones was beautiful, and the women thought Antonio Banderas was very handsome. They would help Zorro out and tell him to run when he needed to (“Run Zorro! Don’t be crazy and RUN!”). I don’t know if Zorro would have made it without my family keeping him on track.

EXAMPLE 2: Recently, I watched The Lion King with my family. They kept asking me how to say the title of the film in English. I repeated it several times. They loved the songs, and they were heartbroken when Mufasa died. They kept telling me that Simba’s dad was dead. I told them I had seen the movie before.

EXAMPLE 3: A few months ago we watched The Gods Must Be Crazy. If you’ve never seen it, it’s about a remote African village that finds an old coke bottle and doesn’t know what to do with it, assuming it’s a gift from the gods. My Senegalese family thought these villagers were HILARIOUS. Ironically, the villages didn’t look too different from the ones I’ve visited here in Senegal. They thought the toubabs in the film were equally crazy. Every time a white person was on the screen, their eyes kept darting in my direction to see my reaction. I kept saying, “Hey! Look at those crazy toubabs!” I don’t think the irony was lost on them.

Every time I watch TV with my host family, I realize how identical we all are. I find myself constantly agreeing with their opinions on things. We all laugh at the commercial with the dancing baby, and we all make fun of the Indian soap opera because it’s SO BAD. We still watch it every night though. I am just as enthralled with these characters as they are. Every night, my sister comes to me and says, “It’s time! Our show is on!”

I feel like I wrap up all of my blog posts with my own rendition of “It’s a Small World After All”. I tell you that, regardless of culture, people are all pretty much the same. Yes, it’s repetitive, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I still have 18 months left in Senegal, and if the only thing I take away from this experience is that we’re all the same, then I feel like my Peace Corps service would be worth it. Not a lot of people have that sort of firsthand perspective. I’m glad I do.

Damn, now I have “It’s a Small World” stuck in my head.

    • Sca-rah
    • March 25th, 2011

    I can’t wait to meet your family and watch tv with them! You know it’s 2 weeks from tomorrow that white and I will be flying to see you. That is so soon! I can’t wait.

    So were the songs in lion king redone in french also or did they just sing them as is? Oh and your family is right, ALL the characters in The Gids Must Be Crazy are crazy.

  1. Lindsey would have a hard time watching the movies with all the chatter going on.

    • Anonymous
    • March 26th, 2011

    To quote Clare, you are HILARIOUS. Can’t wait to see you in April! Kaolack!

    • Lindsey
    • March 26th, 2011

    I love that your sisters in both places say, “Hurry up! Our show is on!”

    Watch Greek next. S and I are obsessed. Last 2 seasons are the best, but the others are good too.

    • Lindsey
    • March 26th, 2011

    Also I want to see the babies throwing tantrums. Are they adorable?

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