LAW AND DISORDERBy V.A. MUSETTO
February 14, 2007 -- JUDGE Judy's courtroom was never like this.
The trial in "Bamako," written and directed by crit ics' favorite Abderrahmane Sissako, is being held in the courtyard of a house in a poor section of Bamako, Mali.
Insects swarm around the judges, who are seated at a long table. The setting allows just about anybody to interrupt the legal proceedings: A wedding party passes, a woman insists on singing until a judge gives her money, and an exotic femme fatale named Mele (Aissa Maiga) comes out of her house to get somebody to tie up the back of her colorful dress.
The surroundings may be humble, but the issues argued by eloquent French lawyers aren't: The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are being sued over policies that allegedly have inflicted heavy debt on Africa.
When "Bamako" isn't involved with the legal matters, it turns to Mele (a lounge singer whose performances bookend the trial), her unemployed husband and their child. Attention is focused on the husband when a sleeping cop's gun is stolen.
As an added touch, Sissako throws in a movie within the movie: "Death in Timbuktu," a tongue-in-cheek spaghetti Western featuring Danny Glover.
Credit Sissako for entertainingly blending serious international issues with the daily comings and goings of village life. A bit more Glover wouldn't have hurt - but you can't have everything.
BAMAKO In French and Bambara, with English subtitles. Running time: 118 minutes. Not rated (mock violence). At Film Forum, Houston Street, west of Sixth Avenue.
Bamako press release
Bamako reviews and ticket information.