“You cannot die before your time, nor not die when your time comes.”
Banel and Adama is the International Feature submission for Senegal. The film is about two young lovers, namely Banel and Adama, who live in a tiny village in Northern Senegal. They spend their days together telling stories to one another, laying in the grass while taking care of their village’s cattle, spending their evenings together planning for their future. They dream of living together in an abandoned house which is buried by a recent sandstorm. They’re in a dream like mentality, utterly infatuated with one another. Inseparable.
They’ve been in love with one another since their early teens, but Banel was forced to marry Adama’s older brother Yero, who was the tribal chief. When Yero died after a horrific accident, Adama was welcomed by the tribal elders to now marry Banel. They’ve now been married for a year. But the community is furious at them for two reasons: Adama refuses to accept the position of tribal chief and Banel doesn’t want to get pregnant, to raise a male heir. While this is all happening, a drought strikes the village, and weeks and months go by without any rain. Are the newlyweds to blame for the calamity that has struck the village?
Without any rain, and despite all the prayers from the villagers, this extended drought begins to kill all the cattle in the village forcing the men to leave their homes for other work. Birds start to flee away. Lizards are drying up. Birds are found dead in the sand. And then people start to die off too. This town has become a steady stream of funerals. This destruction is shown with devastating beauty and is a reminder of the effects of climate change in countries like Senegal.
While this is all happening, Banel refuses to accept a life where she isn’t the master of herself, the master of her own world. Free. She doesn’t want Adama to be like every other man in her village; a man who gets up every morning, goes to work, comes home, has dinner and goes to bed. She wants to move to her own home with him. She wants to herd cattle with him. She wants to sit in her favourite tree with him, and only him. She doesn’t want to accept her destiny, and the traditions set upon Adama.
Before Banel’s eyes, her world has fallen apart. Without Adama, she has nothing left to live, just a fantasy of her dream home being swept away again by the never ending sandstorm.