Karmen Geï

Directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka

Release Year: 2001
Running Time: 82
Color Type: Color
Country: Africa (region), Senegal
Language: French and Wolof w/English subt. [audio]
Subjects: African Studies
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Cast
Stephanie Biddle
Djeïnaba Diop Gaï
Magaye Niang

Crew
Directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka

Bizet's celebrated opera Carmen receives a spectacularly bold reworking in Joseph Gaï Ramaka's Karmen Geï. The first movie musical produced in sub-Saharan Africa, Karmen Geï fuses the throbbing, carnal rhythms of West African dance to the soaring melody of contemporary Senagalese pop music and the vanguard jazz saxophone of The World Saxophone Quartet's David Murray.

Proudly rapacious and defiantly erotic, Karmen (Djeïnaba Diop Gaï) is both a pan-sexual force of nature and a social outlaw. Jailed in a women's prison on notorious Goree Island, Karmen turns the table on her captors by seducing beautiful warden Angelique (Stephanie Biddle) and escaping into the Dakar underworld. At the society wedding of prominent police corporal Lamine, Karmen denounces the rich guests, brawls with the bride and beds the groom. The love triangle between Karmen, Angelique and Lamine evolves into a more complex geometry that soon includes a smuggler and a charismatic singer (Senegalese pop star El Hadj N'diaye). Though Karmen's insatiable lust for life and unwavering disgust with hypocrisy sow the seeds of her operatic downfall, unlike Bizet's opportunistic seductress, this modern African Carmen is "an incongruously independent woman finally undone by her own aphrodisiac magnetism" (The Village Voice).

Both a femme fatale and a political martyr, Gaï's gorgeous Amazon heroine "may be the most magnetic, most beautiful and bravest Carmen ever to grace a stage or screen" (San Francisco Bay Guardian). A lavishly visual, hypnotically musical and "very, very clever" (The Nation) blend of sensual fantasy and earnest naturalism, Karmen Geï "transcends tourist exoticism thanks to star Gaï's formidable presence" (Variety).

Critical Acclaim

"...one of the most beautiful presentations of the Carmen myth, reconstructed with a new setting, contemporary Senegal."- Le Figaro

"Karmen Geï transcends tourist exoticism thanks to star Gaï's formidable presence..." - Variety

"Weaves a spell...The music transforms the story into something free and graceful." - Liberation