For his debut feature, Cheick Fantamady Camara offers a personal vision on a regular theme of African cinema, traditionalism vs. modernism. In Conakry like in every place in the world, the collision between traditions and modernity is more devastating when love is at stake.
BB is a young political cartoonist who works at a liberal newspaper. He is in love with his boss’ daughter, Kesso, a talented computer-scientist and model. But BB is also the son of a strict Imam, Karamako who refuses the union between his son and a woman from a modern urban family such as that of Kesso. When Kesso becomes pregnant with BB’s child, Karamako leaves his son no choice, either he refuses the child or he will be chased away from his family. Karamako’s desire is indeed something completely different; he wants to send BB to Saudi Arabia in order to study to become an imam.
In Conakry, the rain refuses to fall and the government decides to authorize a collective prayer led by BB’s father. When BB discovered that the government has planned the huge prayer because they knew the meteorologistsforecast rain, BB decided to denounce the manipulation by publishing, without the agreement of his boss, an outrageous cartoon only signed with his pen name. The religious organizations soon condemned the cartoonist and when BB announced to his father that he was the one they wanted to put in jail, the relationship between the father and the son came to a point of no return.
Clouds over Conakry is constructed as a tragedy. There are two clans whose children are in love. Kesso’s family representing modernity: the father runs a liberal newspaper and the mother, a travel agency. The conversations within the family reveal the freedom of speech of each member of the clan, women or men. The situation is different in BB’s family, centered on the patriarchal figure of Karamako, who always has the last word on his various wives. The languages they use, French for the first one, Malinké for the second, even with the resistance of BB who always speaks French, also divide the clans.
In this context, BB becomes the link between those two clans. The director also adds secondary characters, such as BB’s singer ex-girlfriend or Kesso’s shop-owner aunt, the mediator of familial quarrels, who convey lightness in the tragic situation of the lovers. It also shows Camara’s subtle treatment of an obsession in New African Cinema: the difficulties of young people facing a divided cultural heritage.
Clouds over Conakry – Cheick Fantamady Camara – 2006 – 113’