Banel & Adama

Mali | 2023 | 87 min. | Ramata-Toulaye Sy

In a tiny, drought-plagued village in northern Senegal, Banel and Adama are madly in love. But as their modern ways break from local traditions—Adama refuses to become chief, Banel doesn’t want children—their community take it as a curse.

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In Banel & Adama, a film directed and written by Ramata-Toulaye Sy, viewers are whisked away into an epic narrative of love and rebellion set in the stark yet stunning landscapes of the Sahel. This film marks Sy's impressive transition from short films to feature-length storytelling, building on the acclaim she received for her short film Astel at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021, where she was celebrated for her emerging talent. The story centers around the intense relationship between Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo). Their journey is one of youthful defiance against the heavy weight of cultural expectations and familial obligations. Their love story is unique, transcending the norms of their community in Senegal, challenging the legacy left by Adama's deceased brother Yero and the consequent marital and social responsibilities thrust upon them. As Adama faces the pressure to take up his brother's mantle as the village chief, both he and Banel yearn for a different path, one that promises freedom and the fulfillment of their own dreams. Yet, their aspirations are tested by environmental and social crises, as drought threatens their way of life and societal norms encroach upon their desires. Sy's Banel & Adama made a notable debut at the Cannes Film Festival, standing out as a significant first feature film. The movie delves into the realms of myth and legend, painting a story that resonates with the timeless essence of folk tales. Through her narrative, Sy crafts a visually and emotionally captivating world, portraying characters with depth and resilience, and forging a tale that speaks to the enduring human spirit against a backdrop that is both harsh and magnificent.

—Nancy Pappas

  • Original Language Title: Banel e Adama
  • Director: Ramata-Toulaye Sy
  • Principal Cast: Khady Mane, Mamadou Diallo
  • Country: Mali, Senegal, France
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 87 min.
  • Producer: Eric Névé, Maud Leclair Névé, Margaux Juvénal
  • Screenplay: Ramata-Toulaye Sy
  • Cinematographers: Amine Berrada
  • Editors: Vincent Tricon
  • Music: Bachar Mar-Khalifé
  • Awards: Denver Film Festival 2023 (Special Jury Mention, Best Debut Feature)
  • Filmography: Debut Feature Film
  • Language: Pulaar
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • US Distributor: Kino Lorber
  • International Sales: Best Friend Forever