Alpha is a New York City taxi-driver. He comes from Batama, a village in the poorest region of Mali, a country among the poorest on earth. Since the drought of 1973, there has never been enough rain - the rivers have dried up, the animals have died, the trees are gone and the fields have turned to desert. The men of Batama have gone abroad, hoping to earn enough to keep the women and children alive.
Like Alpha, they started in France, where Africans were welcome to do the jobs native French wouldn't. But as France has fallen on hard times, the men have dispersed to New York and places as alien as Tokyo, where they work alongside Japanese in dry-cleaning, restaurants, and construction - and earn double the money they would in other cities.
But Batama faces catastrophe, and not everyone can go to Japan. "In the past," says Alpha, "we went abroad to keep the village alive. But today we are finding that abroad is 'closed'. And if 'abroad' is closed, then we are all closed."
"A fascinating portrait of people straddling worlds of barely imaginable contrast."—Independent (London)
Certificate of Merit, 1995 Chicago Film Festival
2001 African Literature Association Conference Film Festival
"Superior... Recommended... an excellent job of comparing and contrasting life in Batama and abroad."—Educational Media Reviews Online