Too young to be married

Too young to be married
Dior Ka plays older sister Coumba who tries to raise money to buy sibling Debo (Oumoul Ka, right) out of an arranged marriage in Tall As A Baobab Tree directed by Jeremy Teicher.

Tall As A Baobab Tree is a film about how two sisters from a Senegalese village struggle against centuries of tradition when the younger girl, at age 11, is sold by her father into marriage with a much older man.

Once married, she will have to give up her dream of further education, and with it, a better life for herself.

American film-maker Jeremy Teicher, 25, is aware that he has to tread carefully.

"It's very sensitive. With an issue like early marriage, it's not always good. There are so many economic and health repercussions, and some of the marriages have abuse and violence," says Teicher, the project's director, co-producer and co-writer.

His debut feature film, which airs this month on Sundance Channel (SingTel mio TV Channel 401), does not press for social change, he says.

It is him trying to be a a storyteller, to "capture a moment in time" in a culture caught between two worlds, the old and the new.

"This is a group of people who see the world changing. The parents want what's best for their families but they don't understand how best to adapt and as a result, make decisions that are harmful to their children. They are not evil people. They are stuck in old ways of thinking," he says.

To shoot the 2012 film, the New York-born Teicher spent several weeks in 2011 in the village of Sinthou Mbadane, two hours south of the capital Dakar. He relied on locals, none of them actors, to fill his cast.

Teicher had first visited the village in 2009 to make a documentary as part of an educational aid project.

He stayed in touch with its residents and the idea for a fiction film grew from conversations with the village's younger folk. The disruptive force of early marriage was a topic they felt strongly about, he says.

"The big plot line is early marriage versus education. It totally came from the students I was working with. I'm interested in stories about growing up and not fitting in with society around you," he says, speaking to Life! on the telephone from Oregon, where he is working on his next film.

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