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With: Khatra Ould Abdel Kader, Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid, Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed, Nana Diakité, Fatimetou Mint Ahmeda, Makanfing Dabo, Santha Leng
Written by: Abderrahmane Sissako
Directed by: Abderrahmane Sissako
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French, Hassanya with English subtitles
Running Time: 95
Date: 05/19/2002
IMDB

Waiting for Happiness (2003)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Still 'Waiting'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Roger Ebert may not be the critic he once was, but early on he established a movie rule that still holds true: if nothing happens by the end of the first reel, nothing is going to happen. I can't think of a better example of this than Waiting for Happiness, a new movie from Mauritania (Northwest Africa) that comes via the San Francisco International Film Festival and opens today at the Roxie.

A young boy tries to get electricity hooked up in his small house. A mother tries to teach her daughter to sing and play the kora. A bunch of people pack into a car -- whose driver's seat sun flap keeps falling down, dropping a sheaf of papers into the driver's face. The young boy runs around carrying a light bulb. For a while it appears as if "Waiting for Happiness" is going somewhere, or that these people have some kind of goal. But director Abderrahmane Sissako doesn't do anything more than check in with them from time to time. We never get to know who they are; their personalities are so slim that viewers may have trouble recognizing characters from scene to scene.

Some critics have compared the film to Jafar Panahi's sublime The White Balloon or Bill Forsyth's wonderful Local Hero, but those films, while relaxed and meandering, still had some kind of drive to them. The characters had something to do. Other critics have gone with the old, "people who like slow films will enjoy it," that it's a "relaxed" film. Well, I love slow films -- I saw Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies twice -- and Waiting for Happiness did nothing for me. It's not a relaxed movie; it's catatonic. It's a moving picture that does not move.

DVD Details: New Yorker's 2007 DVD includes an interview with the director, a trailer, director's notes and bio and liner notes with an essay by Jared Rapfogel. The transfer is anamorphic.

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