The Malagasy Way
France/Madagascar, 84 min.
Directed by Nantenaina Lova
Programme: World Showcase (North American Premiere)
An intriguing look at the flipside of global economic disparity, Nantenaina Lova’s The Malagasy Way takes a peak into rarely explored Malagasy culture. The filmmaker presents the country as a land of noble peasants who take pride in transforming discarded junk into useful tools. As the filmmaker slowly traverses the countryside to paint a portrait of the people, his camera lingers on handcrafted instruments, refashioned tires as shoes, burned out light bulbs turned into oil lamps, discarded bones burned down into soap, and other ingenious creations (or recreations). In theory it all sounds like poverty porn, yet the film is anything but. Lova is clearly fascinated and impressed by the ingenuity of the people he lovingly shoots with his camera and presents them with a quiet dignity backed by their own well-reasoned philosophies.
In a way, the project serves as a metaphor for survival in the third world. It’s a portrait of an impoverished and often forgotten country forced to turn the waste and refuge of the first world into their own advantages. The message is potent without being crammed down the audience’s throat. Lova never indulges in narration or commentary to bracket his first hand footage. He simply allows the people and their actions, myths, folklore, and proverbs to speak for themselves and the result is infinitely more affecting. Though perhaps the pacing is a little laboured at times, The Malagasy Way is a powerful portrait of survival. An at times lyrical vision of alternative living and self-reliance that is thankfully more inspiring than depressing.