O ka (Our house): injustice and property feuds in Mali during its reconstruction – Out of competition, Cannes Festival 2015

O ka (Our house): injustice and property feuds in Mali during its reconstruction.

Malian director Souleymane Cissé presents his latest feature film in the special Out of Competition category at the 2015 Cannes festival.


“Women have always been very important in the Cissé family”, declares the narrator in O Ka (Our house), the 7th feature length film from Malian director Souleymane Cissé, screened at the special category - Out of Competition - at the 68th Cannes festival. These women, his sisters but also the mother who looked after him with care and patience, protected him, cherished him, were humiliated, sullied. All this in a story which was much more than a simple property feud.

In 2008, the Cissé family home, situated in the Bozola suburb of Bamako and owned by the family for a century (with supporting proof) was stolen from them: the Diakité, who had enjoyed the Cissé family’s hospitality, having grossly falsified the property deeds. The four Cissé sisters – Magnini Koroba Cissé, Aminata Cissé, Badjénèba Cissé and M’Ba Cissé - were unceremoniously thrown out and decided not to give in, to camp in front of their home (O Ka, meaning ‘our house’ in Bambara), to seek justice.

The battle for the truth inspired the director to get involved and speak up for them. Souleymane Cissé recounts this injustice for the hour and 36 minutes of the film, as well as Mali’s history and the repercussions of the war there in 2012. A Malian story which couldn’t have existed without justice, nor without educated women prepared to fight for their rights.

The director sought to document this incredible story right from its beginnings, using numerous video formats which showed the violent repossession, the courage and resignation of his four elderly sisters, journalists’ enquiries into this miscarriage of justice, and archive photos of the Cissé family which was founded within this house. In the end, seven years on, nothing has changed. The affair has not been resolved. One of the sisters is no more. But the anger remains. The solidarity of relatives, acquaintances, a section of the neighbourhood, the cinephile community, and of a part of Mali is being heard. It is important to not give up.

O Ka widens the issue in terms of time and space. The film opens with images of flora and fauna, recalling the balance which has been broken by humans, “the infernal machine of men”, referring to the Malian war of 2012 and to corruption. Images of children also appear throughout the film, a symbol of hope for a brighter future than the darkness of this case, to whom should be relayed “the need for justice, the refusal to be humiliated” (Serge Toubiana, director of Cinémathèque française).

Watch the Souleymane Cissé interview made by ACPCultures+.

May 21, 2015
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