Waiting for Happiness depicts life in the seaside town of Nouadhibou in Mauritania. A young man, Abdallah (Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed), visits the town, where his mother lives, before emigrating. He feels disconnected from his people because he dresses in Western clothes, and he does not speak the language, but he connects in small ways during his stay. A taciturn elderly electrician, Maata (Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid), teaches an energetic boy, Khatra (Khatra Ould Abdel Kader), his trade, while a traditional singer (Nema Mint Choueikh) teaches a talented young girl hers. One would-be émigré washes up on the beach amid massive ships long ago run aground. Abdallah's mother vainly urges him to follow traditional customs while he's in town. Nana (Nana Diakite) tells Abdallah a sad tale about tracking down the father of her lost child in Europe. The film jumps forward in time at several points, and eventually both Khatra and Abdallah try to leave the village. Filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako's follow-up to his acclaimed Life on Earth, Waiting for Happiness won the FIPRESCI Award for Un Certain Regard at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival "for its exquisite poetic depiction of the emotional and humorous complications that can arise in the midst of a simple life."
by Josh Ralske synopsis