Waiting for Happiness

(Heremakono). A man buries a radio in the sand, then walks into the desert carrying only a tire; a woman gives singing lessons to a young girl with a throaty, otherworldly voice; a group of women and men smoke, chat, and flirt. There's nothing fast-paced about Waiting for Happiness. Instead, Mauritanian filmmaker Sissako's film builds slowly with a series of rich, spellbinding images set in and around Nouadhibou, a seaside town that's a sort of West African cultural crossroads. Sissako's narrative approach is to focus on a handful of characters, and while the film's examination of time and place-the pull of home, the desire for change, the agony of departure-is certainly deep, the experience isn't heavy, but rather a gentle, quiet meditation. It's an incredible portrait of a world on the sidelines of society yet on the brink of major change, and it's likely among the most visually arresting films you'll see all year.

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