Kabala is a small West African village suffering from a terrible drought. The only source of water is a holy well that shows signs of contamination. The village elders decide that a traditional dance of fire is needed to bring life back to the village. Hamalla (Modibo Traoré), one of the village's many youths, prepares to join this sacred dance until his torch doesn't light, and he is cast out of the ceremony as doubts begin to surface about his legitimacy. Humiliated, he leaves the village and the woman he loves, Sokona (Djénéba Koné), to work as a dynamite blaster in a distant mine.
Four years pass, and Hamalla hears news of tragic fatalities in his village due to the tainted well water. He decides to return home to provide assistance. There he is reunited with Sokona, who is now betrothed to Hamalla's brother, Sériba (Fily Traoré), who already has a pregnant wife. The men's father, Babji (Baba Dabo), attempts to reconcile violent dispute between his sons, suffering a severe heart attack.
On his deathbed, Babji reveals a secret to Hamalla that explains why he was originally cast out of the sacred fired dance é Hamalla's mother is the local witch, Bayassa (Nakani Koné). Their love was not allowed to exist; Babji was forced to raise Hamalla with a new wife.
Hamalla tries to convince the village elders of the necessity to drill within the sacred well, but his entreaties are presumed to be a desecration of the village's spiritual symbol.
Hamalla goes to Bayassa to tell her he knows she is his mother. He also confides his despair over Sokona's pending-marriage to his brother. Bayassa aggress to help Hamalla win back Sokona. Using her magical powers, Bayassa makes Sériba's marriage begin to sour. Sériba is unable to consummate the marriage, bringing much joy and laughter to Sokona and the local women. When Sériba learns of Bayassa's role in his impotence, he seeks the help of a male sorcerer who is unable to combat Bayassa's spell. A furious Sériba sets Bayassa's hut on fire. Hamalla comes to Bayassa's rescue, but his mother is severely burned. Before she dies, Bayassa manages to ensure that Sériba's first wife gives birth to a healthy baby.
The sacred well has fallen into further disrepair, but when one of the staunchest objectors to Hamalla's plan falls deathly ill due to drinking the contaminated water, Hamalla makes a new case to the Kabalais of his ability to drill for cleaner water. In light of other recent deaths, the villagers agree to the plan if the Kabalais themselves can work on the project under Hamalla's guidance.
A film by Assane Kouyaté, Mali, 2002 (112 minutes)
About the Director
Assane Kouyaté was born in Bamako, Mali, in 1954. After a postgraduate degree in French studies, he obtained a diploma from The Moscow Film Institute (VGIK) in 1989. His graduate film, Thérese and Patrick, received acclaim at the Tashkent Film Festival, Uzbekistan. In 1994, after completing several documentaries and advertising films, Kouyaté was a cast member in Zéka Lapaine's film, Macadam Tribe (1994), and from 1998 through 2000 he served as the assistant director for Aphrodita by the Argentine filmmaker Pablo Caesar.
Hammala___ Modibo Traoré
Sokona___ Djénéba Koné
Seriba___ Fily Traoré
Siribi___ Hamadoun Kassogué
Namory___ Siaka Diarra
Fakourou___ Sory Ibrahima Koita
Badji___ Baba Dabo
Bayassa___ Nakani Koné
Director: Assane Kouyaté
Screenwriters: Assane Kouyaté, Abdoul Karim Dembélé
Production Companies: Farafina Dambe / CNPC prod.
Producers: Assane Kouyaté, Youssouf Coulibaly, Francine Jean-Baptiste
Cinematographer: Jean-Michel Humeau
Production Designer: Kélétigui Dembélé
Sound: Bakary Sangaré