A tale of early marriage and the life-changing power of education
Coumba, a Senegalese girl, and her younger sister Debo are travelling back to their village for the school holidays.
They are the first in their family to attend school and the act of going to class and passing exams gives them a sense of great excitement – education, for them, is not a sacred right.
Their father, mother and older brother all live and work in Sinthiou Mbadane, Senegal, a cluster of straw huts with baobab trees scattered all around.
It’s located just a few miles from the city of Mbour but it’s an entirely different world – a small, traditional community of cattle herders who still cook meals on open fires and fetch water from wells.
As they walk back home, the two sisters have no idea their brother has been badly injured and will no longer be able to tend to the family cattle. They also can’t imagine that their father will marry one of them off to pay for the medical expenses.
‘Tall as the Baobab Tree’ is a film about their moving story but also about the power of education and its life-changing consequences.
Director Jeremy Teicher says the film “was a great way to discuss generally the cultural change that’s happening when you bring education to very traditional villages for the first time.”
The 24-year-old New York City-based filmmaker came up with the idea for the film while working on an earlier project for which he visited Senegal and met a group of young people nearly the same age as him who were the first from their community to be sent to school.
“We became friends and we started sharing our stories,” Teicher told TrustLaw in London. “There was a group of girls who were very passionate about discussing early marriage and to me it was … I had no idea it was going on.”
He proposed making a fiction film about it and they were eager to help with the project.
“We wanted to tell a story that also takes a bigger look at how the culture is changing,” he said.
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Photo caption: A girl peers from behind a doorway at a roadside kiosk in Senegal’s capital Dakar in 2011. REUTERS/ Finbarr O’Reilly