Opening 29 Sep 2016
Music is the heart and soul of this land locked West Africa country. Once heard, it is unforgettable. Documentarian Lutz Gregor wisely allows the music to speak for itself. While traveling through Mali, musicians’ articulate about personal feelings, and the abysmal political conditions. Music was banned when Islamic radicals took control enforcing Shari law, albeit in one scene, the Religious Leader points out music is not condemned in the Koran. Since the extremists retreat, the musicians’ performances are influential toward healing and promoting peace for their countrymen and the world. Their songs pulsating music accompany championing lyrics.
Fatoumata Diawara fled as an adolescent; in Paris, successful acting roles (Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako 2014 [Review, www.kinocritics.com]), and singing and songwriting launched international recognition. She returns for her first homeland concert, Festival Sur Le Niger, in south-central Ségou (2015). Also onstage is Bassékou Kouyaté, whose father taught him to play the ancient ngoni (1352), and traditional griot. His wife Amy Sacko (renowned soloist) is lead singer for his internationally famous band, Ngoni ba. The North Mali dessert nomad Ahmed Ag Kaedi left the military once he began playing guitar. His Tuareg band’s popularity incited insurgents; they threatened fingers-loss, he fled. Whereas, popular Master Soumy uses fiery, unflinching rap to reach teenagers.
Combining their forceful talents, musicians are working to extradite the extremists fear permeating Mali. Cinematographer Axel Schneppat’s (and team) framing and affinity with the protagonists, and surroundings is impressive, attention catching. Just as, sound recordist Pascal Capitolin remarkably captures ordinary village impressions, and the musicians’ rhythms and beats. Michelle Barbin and Markus Schmidt edit, including political commentary concerning the West’s duplicities involving Mali’s Islamist conditions. Transcending languages, Mali Blues is worth seeing. French/German subtitles, 93 minutes. (Marinell Haegelin)