1 December 2013 | guy-bellinger
Both interesting and boring
Adapted by the authors, Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, from their comic book "Aya de Yopougon", the film of the same name left me with mixed feelings. I was interested throughout but, as the story unfurled, I realized I had to fight yawns. Strange as it may seem, the paradox is easily explained: the substance is rich and challenging whereas the form is dull and unimaginative. Worst of all, "Aya de Yopugon" is talky, talky, talky. As a result, boredom constantly threatens to win the game. Fortunately, the worth of the story ends up saving the day. Well, let's stay positive and concentrate on the qualities of the film. The time, place and characters (all stemming from Marguerite Abouet's experiences) attract the viewer's attention. Yopougon (a poor area of Abidjan, Ivory Coast), a seldom seen location, and the time (the late 1970s, during president Houphouët-Boigny's tenure), a rarely described period, are well documented, colorful as well as informative. Abouet knows what she is talking about and it shows. Even better, the cartoonist, through the characters she has created (Aya, a serious- minded high school student, and her two fickle friends Bintou and Adjoua), succeeds in moving from the general to the particular, the portrait of the particular district of Yopougon being a (possible) extrapolation of the whole African continent, at least as it was three decades ago. And a sour portrait for that matter. If we take Yopougon as a scale model of African society, we find that it is made of machos, womanizers, cheaters, nouveaux riches, lazybones on the male side and, on the female one, man hunters. Of course this statement needs be nuanced, but some of the evils that have been plaguing Africa are openly - and quite rightly - denounced here. Which is confirmed in the - bitter - ending : will a talented girl like Aya really be able to become a doctor as she dreamed she would ? Nothing is less certain and... less depressing. The biting social commentary is what makes "Aya de Yopougon" an ultimately watchable adult cartoon. Too bad its dull style prevents it from being the masterpiece it could have been, in the league of "Waltz with Bashir" or "Approved for Adoption". But, in the end, even though you will not have had the time of your life, you will not have wasted your time, which is not that bad after all.