In January 2000 Lassana Cissé, head of the local Cultural Mission of the Dogon County in Mali, received a letter informing him of the theft of a sacred item of high significance. It is a wooden statue, several centuries old. He took advantage of a visit in the region by the film’s author to ask him for help. Michel Brent took on the challenge.
The film follows his first investigations in the villages where the families concerned with the theft live. During this first inquest, he learns that the statue was sold to a visiting trader, and, almost miraculously, manages to find his name. During the handing-back ceremony, and to everyone’s surprise, the village folk refuse to take back what had been their sacred cult object. So the item will be kept instead at the National Museum of Bamako. The story reaches its conclusion 6 years after the initial theft, with some people being delighted with the turn of the events, other critical of the chosen solution, while some, within the very same village, go on pillaging their own heritage without remorse.
The other face of the film, is a reflection on the confrontation, which the Dogon people feel daily, between their animist traditions and Islam. Michel Brent focuses on the destiny of this age-old culture as it faces the modern world and new patterns of behaviour which inexorably infiltrate even the remotest parts of the African continent.