A defiant assertion of identity and a bold retort to the West comes in the form of a tender love story from Niger. Rahmatou Keita's film is as non-combative as they come, stressing the value of respect above all else; The Wedding Ring remains a pointed critique of Western exploitation in Africa yet, in demonstrating the pitfalls, but also the pride, in an isolated instance of a reversal of such exploitation. Even the more opaque elements of Keita's cultural immersion are amplified in her commitment to her cause, a statement of the validity of this dying culture, and of existence outside of the scheme of Western lifestyles. It is thus that The Wedding Ring becomes impossible to evaluate by usual standards, since it stringently refuses to adhere to them - many of the film's apparent flaws can be swiftly dismissed as such, though others cannot. One has cause to query the integrity of Keita's direction, with slack showing through in a number of sequences, sloppy editing, and an unnecessarily intrusive score diminishing the quality of an otherwise admirable production. Yet her outlook on her characters' lives is rich in detail and empathy, positing an ambiguous commentary on the effects of Western influence on regional African communities, and insisting on the inherent virtues of their ways of life, with an implicitly feminist message that is skilfully interwoven into its fellow thematic threads. And The Wedding Ring is an uncommonly, almost imperceptibly beautiful film, burgeoning with striking imagery to the extent that it almost becomes commonplace. It's this kind of powerful declaration and celebration of self of which African cinema ought to produce more, or of which it ought to be permitted to produce more!