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Company is another word for Trouble: A Review of Frontieres

Somewhere in the middle of Frontieres, a film that takes place mostly on the road and in several countries across western Africa, three women bond over the silent fart of a male traveller. The man is asleep and never gets a chance to defend himself.

The silence of the man is a reversal of cinema’s preoccupation with the male point of view. And that scene gives the impression of a comedy, but the film has bigger fish. It is about borders—both of countries and of persons. As anyone who has traveled by road across west African will attest, there are so many troubles on the way. Frontieres addresses them all, but subtly.

It is also about being woman in Africa and being a woman in love and being a woman in relation to other women. At some point a Nigerian character comes in and oppresses another character. As played by the poet Wana Udobang (credited as Unwana Udobang) with wondrous hair and a phony French, the character becomes a sort of centre for the band of women. They get into some misadventure together and help each other emotionally. The light handling by cinematographer Ali Lakrouf manages to both pay homage to Francophone African cinema aesthetics as well as update it.

Some of the themes are addressed on the nose, but this is enjoyable cinema that comes with a punch at the end.

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