As a writer, director and stylist Wale Oyejidewhose brand was presented in “Black Panther” And “Coming 2 America”, “Bravo, Burkina!” follows a Burkinabe immigrant named Aimé (Alain Tiendrebeogo) move to Italy. This film examines his struggles and triumphs living in a hostile alien nation that doesn’t seem to want to, as well as the tension that arises at home. As a Nigerian immigrant himself, Oyéjidé channels his personal experiences with immigration and the lessons learned during his journey.
Unfortunately, the film’s heady themes sacrifice clever dialogue and distinct characterization for lessons on the nose, but that doesn’t detract from the earnestness and passion it exudes from its creators.
The best style
Something that struck me upon seeing the film was the beauty of “Bravo, Burkina!” watched. Photography director Jake Saner composes shots primarily through hand-held camera movements that allow the camera to become a character. One scene I found particularly beautiful was the one filmed in an Italian castle which made excellent use of colored lighting. Oyéjidé says Italy is a “cheat code of cinema” because wherever a camera is pointed it ends up becoming a painting. In Saner’s hands, these paintings approach masterpieces.
On the subject of masterpieces, the costumes, of course, are expressive and sit at the forefront of fashion. The colours, patterns and textures combine in a symphony of intrigue and vibrancy. Forsaking my purple prose, the highlight of my movie-watching experience was seeing what the stylists came from Ikire Jones they would invent the next one.
With limited substance
Unfortunately, this style comes to an end when you look at the core of the film’s story. I had trouble connecting with our main character’s struggles. Not because I just don’t understand, but because he wasn’t a character. Aimé seemed more like a shell traversed by the story rather than an acting force in the narrative. Also, I couldn’t tell you a trait that Aimé had that Asma, the romantic protagonist played Aissata Deme, I have not, nor could I tell you why they did the things they did. The characterization of our protagonists ended with their clothes. The volume of their clothes only exacerbated the stillness of the characters.
The most limiting factor in this equation was his dialogue. The exchanges between the characters consisted of cryptic banter that made you wonder about the meaning of an insignificant event. The heart of the film is in the right place and meant to be deep, but more often than not “Bravo, Burkina!” he believes he is deeper than he really is.
These limitations didn’t come without reason, however. During the Q&A section of the Sundance premiere, many questions arose about the production and its creative process. Along with a humorous admission that he picked a mask because “it was the coolest one they had,” Saner also admitted that the entire film was shot in just under two weeks. Additionally, most of the performances were from real-life immigrants and Burkinabe villagers with limited entertainment experience. However, these don’t serve as excuses for his half-baked narrative.
Inside the borders it was done, “Bravo, Burkina!” it is truly a feat of human ingenuity, using all its resources to the nth degree. However, judging this film as an experience in a vacuum, I will not watch “Bravo, Burkina!” still. There are other films that deal with the same concepts more eloquently this festival season.