Skirt Power

From Malian director Adama Drabo comes this exuberant magical-realist comedy (1997) in which an 18th-century village’s war between the sexes casts a distinctly modern light on the role of women in Mali’s 1991 revolution. An abused young wife of the Dogon people steals a tribal mask ordinarily worn by men, demanding that they exchange roles with the women and take over the household chores; the men prove so inept that they’re exhausted by the end of the day, and some of them pretend to be asleep when their wives make sexual demands. Drabo’s relatively low-tech special effects are beautiful and charming, and his fascination with tribal rituals is balanced by a sharp sense of the contemporary (the film opens with a group of present-day city dwellers watching a Depression-era Hollywood musical on TV; a woman who insists on sitting in the “men’s section” inspires a traditional griot to recount the story of the Dogons). As in Souleymane Cisse’s remarkable Brightness, mythology and the politics of everyday life are intimately intertwined, and the film captures the wonder of a world where magic still lives. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, August 7, 6:00, and Sunday, August 9, 4:00, 312-443-3737. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.