Fels Film

"The Power of Laughter", 58 min.

by Ulla Fels

Production: Felsfilm / SWF / ARTE, © 1994

The German, French or English version for non-commercial,
personal or educational use is available at:

Felsfilm - Hamburg, Ulla Fels, 
Mail: fels@felsfilm.de


In the Westafrican state of Gambia children are one of the prerequisites for the social and economic security of the family. Women who do not bear children or loose them after birth will be admitted into one of the numerous kanyalang-organisations. Within the group they learn how to handle the problem of childlessness in a different way.
Kanyalang women redicule themselves and all other who are vain, plaintive or arrogant.
They say and do whatever pleases them yet nobody is allowed to feel offended or insulted.
By that they make people laugh and produce enjoyment and relaxation for themselves and their environment.
In this manner they slowly rid themselves of the psychological and social pressure that weighs on them. Eventually many of them will bear children that stay alive.
Hartum is a farmer. Six out of her eight children died. Since she became the member of a kanyalang group she gave birth to four more children. They all live.
The 74 year old Ndut is a petty trader. She lives in the city. Nine out of her ten children died. The kanyalang group of her suburb helped her to retain her cheerfulness and vitality.
"The Power of Laughter" depicts modes of "paradox communication" and "joking relationship". In the Gambia these ancient methods serve to harmonize and to overcome potential problems in the coexistance of its people.