Aya of Yop City: COLCOA Review
Marguerite Abouet’s animated feature recalls some of her formative years growing up in West Africa.
Graphic novelist Marguerite Abouet draws from material popularized by her illustrated trilogy about her youth in the West African nation of Ivory Coast for her filmmaking debut. Attractively designed and full of distinctive characters, Aya of Yop City will primarily appeal to festivals focusing on animation and the Francophonic African diaspora.
Set in the Yopougon district of Abidjan (aka Yop City) during the 1970s, the film centers on Aya, 19 and single, who lives with her family in a middle-class neighborhood while finishing her studies. Although she’d like to attend university and study medicine, her father is opposed, believing she should get married and start a family. When it comes to man-chasing, however, she’s no competition for Bintou and Adjoua, her two lighthearted but under-motivated best friends.
Aya’s dad and his boss, who runs a major local brewery, think she should consider marrying his son Moussa, a whiny, spoiled loser. Adjoua appears more persuadable by the boy’s negligible charms, however, and when she becomes pregnant she identifies Moussa as the father.
A hastily arranged wedding seems to amicably resolve the issue, but when their baby boy is born, he looks nothing like his supposed father, sparking a heated inquiry into the child’s parentage. Bintou, meanwhile, has found herself a handsome and secretive Parisian lover who says he’s returned to Abidjan to find a wife, but avoids introducing her to his family or friends. Forced to cover for Bintou’s clandestine love affair, Aya’s stuck with distracting her friend's nosy but slow-witted cousin who’s been directed by Bintou’s father to keep tabs on her movements.
After establishing her extensive cast of characters and their overlapping social relations, Abouet’s narrative drifts, shifting attention from Aya to her more conflicted friends and family members. The talented voice cast remains consistently endearing throughout the film however, and the vibrant cel-style CGI animation designed by Abouet’s husband and co-director, Clement Oubrerie, demonstrates a delightful familiarity with the vernacular imagery of the film’s period context.
Cast: Aissa Maiga, Tatiano Rojo, Tella Kpomahou, Jacky Ido, Emil Abossolo-Mbo, Eriq Ebouaney
Directors: Clement Oubrerie, Marguerite AbouetScreenwriter: Marguerite Abouet
Producers: Antoine Delesvaux, Joann Sfar, Clement Oubrerie, Didier Lupfer
Sales: TF1 International
No rating, 87 minutes