Director Abderrahmane Sissako (BAMAKO) has established himself as one of Africa’s leading filmmakers. This hypnotic tone poem confirms Sissako’s talent for capturing the essence of a particular place through evocative imagery, low-key comedy, and close observation of everyday life. In Waiting for Happiness (originally titled Heremakono), the place is a spectacularly isolated, wind-scoured cluster of adobe buildings perched on a bleached desert plain that ends abruptly at the blue ocean. The lives of its inhabitants, in keeping with this austere environment, are pared down to two basic choices: adaptation or exile. In the latter category is Abdallah, a citified college student who temporarily returns home and, unable to speak or dress like a native, becomes painfully, comically alienated. Opposed to him is Khatra, an alert, curious boy apprenticed to the wizardly local electrician, who demonstrates how apparent oppositions (such as magic/technology, globalization/village life) might be reconciled through improvisation and patience.