Power dynamics wrapped in religious intolerance drives a wedge between two brothers in Mamadou Dia
’s engrossing feature debut, “Nafi’s Father.” While presenting two competing visions of Islam
, the film plainly shows fundamentalism as an aberrant strain foreign to Senegal, wielded as a means of control rather than a genuine belief system; even though the Islamist topic is hardly under the radar of late, Dia grants his characters warmth and humor in their struggles and makes the story feel fresh without compromising on drama. Not enough sub-Saharan films make it to festivals let alone art-house cinemas, but the strength of “Nafi’s Father,” plus two Locarno wins, including the Golden Leopard in the Cinema of the Present section, should boost its chances considerably.
In a small town in the northeast of Senegal, the local Tierno, a religious leader qualified to be an Imam, practices a centuries-old homegrown version of