Director: Kelly Daniela Norris, T.W. Pittman
Year of release: 2017
Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes
The old world at a crossroads with the new-world is at the heart of Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman's wonderfully naturalistic Nakom, the first film to be shot in the Kusaal language. Centering on an aspiring doctor, Iddrisu (Jacob Ayanaba) returning to his home village after his father's death, the film is keenly aware of how familial obligations and tradition can clash with one's ability to move forward and embrace technological evolution.
Utilizing spare tracking shots and wide compositions which take in the primitive lifestyle of the villagers, Norris and Pittman focus on Iddrisu's internal conflict of staying true to his roots while harboring larger ambitions in a way which feels intrinsically linked to this specific milieu. Ayanaba, meanwhile, is a sympathetic presence throughout, modulating his performance between charismatic chief-like figure to his family with that of a tortured soul longing to rejoin the new-world, with it's busy highways and medical schools.
Unlike a lot of films set in Africa made by outsiders, Nakom doesn't feel as if it's pushing a certain ideological viewpoint. Instead, there's a relaxed atmosphere to the proceedings which allows the film to come across largely plotless and concerned more with naturalism than narrative urgency. Even a late incident involving a childbirth could have played as a melodramatic device, but it's depicted here with the same kind of restraint as the scenes where Iddrisu and fellow villagers simply work the fields or share meals. Immersive, low-key, and capturing its setting with authenticity, Nakom may be a quiet film, but it's message about tradition vs. progress speaks in a language that's powerfully universal.