Senegal did unfortunately kill my movie-watching tablet - the annoyingly bold rat that disagrees with my inhabitation if HIS room (jerk) was running on one of my shelves and knocked over a plastic container full of sugar (jerk!), which then fell onto the tablet which had been resting on my table, cracking the only part of the screen that wasn't already cracked. I wasn't willing to give up on movie nights - they're one of my favorite things to do at site at this point - so I started using my laptop instead. Since the laptop doesn't have as much battery life as the tablet, we can only watch movies a couple times a week now, but the screen is so much bigger and the sound is louder, so my family says they prefer it this way. I'm not ready to forgive the rat, though. Please eat your poison and die already, jerk rat.
Pitch Perfect: The kids were talking and fidgeting during the beginning part of this movie (before the performances really got underway) but everyone stopped, as if on cue, for the musical numbers. They were all spellbound by “Cups” (as most Americans were) but when I asked if anyone wanted to learn it the next day, they all said, “Mi waawaa! (I can’t!)” I would recommend that other volunteers use caution if they want to show this movie. Audrey’s puking wasn’t a problem…they’ve seen grosser. My aunt just asked, concerned, why she didn’t go see a doctor, because that wasn’t normal. However, all the lesbian stuff was awkward, particularly the scene where Amy gets hit by a burrito and Cynthia performs unnecessary mouth to mouth. It wasn’t the right time to have a frank discussion about how in America sometimes girls love girls. I just shrugged and said I didn’t understand that scene. It was uncomfortable.
Beauty and the Beast: This one was a hit. It was a simple enough concept that I was able to explain it with my baby Pulaar, so it was one of the few films we’ve watched that everyone completely understood. Since Senegal is a francophone country, everyone knows basic French greetings, so that first song (Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!) was a hit. As “Tale as Old as Time” (the somber, serious slow-dance song where Beauty and the Beast fall in love) started, everyone started giggling. I asked what was up, and my sister said the animal (Beast) was wearing pants. I thought I was missing something because the giggles persisted the whole 2 minutes of the song, but apparently it was just that funny. They kept repeating, "laar tuuba makko!" Look at his pants! I noticed with irritation that Belle didn’t actually eat anything during the Be Our Guest song, she just clapped and went back to bed. COME ON GIRL, you're surrounded by French chefs trying to feed you and I'm in the land of leaf sauce! I am sadly obliged to report that my confusing shame-lust on Gaston has not abated with time, despite the fact that he's a narcissistic jerk bag.
Finding Nemo: I had a French audio track to this one. I had French for Aladdin, too, but Aladdin was too difficult for anyone to understand so it just as well could have been English. Finding Nemo was good in French, since the characters spoke slowly and used simple words. I barely speak French and I could understand some parts. My sister Medo, who studies in middle school, said she understood most of it. Although this doesn’t have a reputation for being an educational movie, my family definitely learned from it. I don't think many people here have ever seen a sea turtle, jellyfish, seahorse, whale, aquarium, or scuba diver.
Hook: We watched this movie over two days, and on the evening of the second day, my brother Alpha asked, excitedly, “Can we watch Rufio tonight?!” All the preteen girls were also totally infatuated with Rufio even though they couldn’t understand a word he was saying. When I asked who was more weydi (beautiful), Rufio or Jack from Titanic, two of my sisters started bickering so intensely one slapped the other. The movie was too hard to fully explain, so I didn’t try – I just said that Hook took Peter’s kids, so Peter had to go to Rufio’s formation and learn to fight to get them back. The scene where Julia Roberts gets really big and kisses Peter was weird. No one here understood it and I guess I didn’t, either. Besides Rufio, the most popular part of this movie was where Peter falls in the ocean and gets rescued by mermaids. No one know what to think of them – weird beautiful fish-ladies. I guess they are kind of confusing if you’ve never seen one before.
The Parent Trap: I could explain this concept pretty easily – there were twins whose parents divorced, and each parent took one twin, then the twins met and switched places. The beginning, when the girls meet at camp and dislike each other, was funny, but I did feel ridiculous for coming from a culture where spreading honey all over a sleeping child as a prank is possible (honey is like gold here, protected and savored). I also told my family that the camp the girls met at was a kind of special school, because I felt silly coming from a culture where people send off their kids to play for months each summer instead of relying on them for house or farm work. When the dad’s new girlfriend came into the picture, I had to explain why that was a problem and why the girls needed to break them up. In America, you can only have one wife. In Senegal you can have four.
Spirited Away: This one only lasted one night. I told my family that I wanted them to watch films from the whole world, not just from America. Since a major part of watching movies here is everyone narrating the events that are happening on-screen, anyone that happened to be walking by during this movie would overhear some really weird conversations. “Oh…the mud man is very smelly…oh…now the small child removed a bicycle from his back…” My family didn’t want to continue watching this a second night. I said if they didn’t watch it they wouldn’t know if the girl’s parents stay pigs or if they turn back into people. It was not enough bait to change their minds. They said it wasn't bad...they just didn't want to watch it. Lesson learned: abstract anime does not translate well to Pulaar subsistence farmers.
Iron Man: This unseated Jurassic Park as favorite movie for teen/adult males. The afternoon after watching this movie, little boys in the compound were pretending to blast each other with their nonexistent palm-light-weapons, and my brother Alpha kept telling me, "Tony ne welli!" Toni is also the Pulaar word for "lips," so I was pretty confused about why he was telling me that lips were cool, until he pantomimed flying and said "Tony" a few more times. There was a somewhat graphic sex scene in the beginning of this movie with a rando who was clearly not Tony's wife (awkward!), which I tried to excuse by saying Tony was a bit of a kalibante (troublemaker). I think this just made all the men like him more.
Avatar: It was interesting watching this as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was strangely jealous of Jake Sully's "service" - why the hell did Neytiri and Mo'at speak English?! He had it so easy! I hoped that my family didn't expect me to integrate into their community as well as Jake did into his. I'm not going to marry a local and join in a war against my own people. Sorry. The family liked the movie, especially the big fight scene at the end of it, but the computer graphics might have been too good - there was some bickering about whether the animals in the movie were real or not.
Shrek: This movie is mostly dialogue between Shrek and Donkey, which no one understood, coupled with funny references to fairy tales which my family also did not understand. All the physical humor was appreciated, though, especially Shrek's smackdown of the knights when he went to visit Lord Farquad and Fiona's smackdown of Robin Hood's merry men. Even though the kids didn't understand what Donkey was saying, they still thought he was funny, but I don't think it would be worthwhile to watch this again. There were too many scenes with not enough action.