Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Swan Productions
Directed by Nurith Aviv
VHS, color, 17 min.
College - Adult
African Studies, Language, Art
Reviewed by Jessica Schomberg, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Date Entered: 12/21/2005
In the 1950s, Bruly Bouabre created a series of 400 monosyllabic pictograms, which he converted into a phonetic structure of the Bété language. Recounted with deceptive simplicity, this documentary provides a sketch of Bouabre’s design process and goals.
Around 600,000 Bétés live in the Ivory Coast, where they are educated only in French. Prior to Bouabre’s work, Bété had had no written language. Bouabre had intended to help his people attain literacy by providing them with a culturally relevant written language.
The dialog is in French and Bété, the narration is in French. White English subtitles run throughout. The videography and graphics are simple and entirely appropriate to the content.
As it covers Bouabre’s work so briefly, this video would not be appropriate for casual viewing by those not already familiar with it. However, with a running time of 17 minutes, it would be an excellent video to use in a classroom setting. Recommended for college libraries with programs on African Studies, pre-literacy and language, or art.