In a rural African village poised at the outer edge of the modern world, a teenage girl hatches a secret plan to rescue her 11-year-old sister from an arranged marriage.
Coumba and her little sister Debo are the first to leave their family’s remote African village, where meals are prepared over open fires and water is drawn from wells, to attend school in the bustling city. But when an accident suddenly threatens their family’s survival, their father decides to sell 11-year-old Debo into an arranged marriage. Torn between loyalty to her elders and her dreams for the future, Coumba hatches a secret plan to rescue her young sister from a fate she did not choose.
A powerful voice from Africa’s young generation, Grand comme le Baobab (Tall as the Baobab Tree)poignantly depicts a family struggling to find its footing at the outer edge of the modern world… where questions of right and wrong are not always black and white.
Inspired by true stories from his Student Academy Award-nominated documentary, Grand comme le Baobab is director Jeremy Teicher’s first feature film. The movie was shot on location in a rural Senegalese village without electricity and features local villagers playing roles that mirror their actual lives. It is the first international feature film in the colloquial Pulaar language.
When I first visited the village of Sinthiou Mbadane, Senegal, the trip by horse cart traversed through wide opens fields that stretched uninterrupted across the horizon. After turning off the paved roads, the concrete houses of the city would melt away, giving in to rolling hills populated only by massive baobab trees. Clusters of straw huts would eventually pop up between the trees, surrounded by herds of cows. This was Sinthiou Mbadane. Even though it was only a few miles from the city, it felt like a completely separate world.
Village life is now in the midst of a transformation. A new generation, with access to school for the first time in history, is coming of age. Roads from the city stretch deeper into the countryside and straw huts are steadily being replaced by new, concrete buildings.
Culturally, the villagers are simultaneously embracing and wary of these changes… how will their traditions and culture fit in with this new world? As a young American witnessing this transformation first-hand, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own culture back home. Just as some villagers resist adapting their traditions to a changing world, Americans are also fiercely struggling over divisive issues of social and cultural evolution.
I wanted to tell a story that captures the emotions of the old and new worlds colliding. Grand comme le Baobab explores the tensions, quiet victories, and heartbreaks that come with this change.