To find dates, locations and ticket information go to www.viff.org
A fascinating interview with Director and Producer, Volker Goetze .Due to time constraints, the interview was by e-Mail. My questions are in bold and italic. All that remains is to see the film and send your comments in!
1) What message/messages do you want to give to the audience?
The film is a window into the world of a Senegalese Mandinka Jeli (Griot) and musician Ablaye Cissoko. Through the film, Ablaye acts as a storyteller and mediator. His stories are very different from the ones we normally hear in the western world. They address lost and often forgotten values of family, friendship, respect and compassion. Ablaye is descended from generations of Cissokos and they are famous for inventing the African harp otherwise known as the kora.
2) Why should people go see the film?
Go see the film to get a glimpse of the oral tradition and living history of West Africa, get uplifted by Ablaye’s music, understand what the youth in Senegal are going through; and gain a better understanding of the connection of oral memory to Black Culture.
3) You have high profile and experienced film partners. Why did they join your team?
Working with Ablaye Cissoko, I discovered and learned more about the Griot culture and oral history of West Africa. I wanted to share this discovery and the idea of a documentary was born. In 2007, I read a book called “Documentary Storytelling” by Sheila Curran Banard, which introduced me to Sam Pollard, known for his many collaborations with Spike Lee. It mentioned that Spike Lee often just left the footage to Mr. Pollard and let him work out the story creatively, by looking at the footage itself. It was right then and there that I realized that Sam Pollard would be an excellent collaborator for this film. I thought he might be interested because of the nature of the topic. But it was not until two years later that a colleague Bob Mover, who worked with Charles Mingus and Chet Baker, mentioned to me that he actually knew someone who could connect me with Sam Pollard. After the first meeting with Sam and his former mentor Victor Kanefsky, I found out that Sam is a huge fan of jazz-legend and pianist Randy Weston, who we interviewed for the film. Randy Weston has lived in Africa for fifteen years and Ablaye Cissoko and Randy Weston actually met in 2007 at the Saint-Louis-Jazz-Festival in Senegal. Sam Pollard mentioned that if I set up a meeting with Randy Weston that he would be on board. So I set up a meeting and Sam Pollard joined the team together with Victor Kanefsky. Sam and Victor proved to be invaluable additions to the team. I also have to mention Sanne Kurz– a fantastic cinematographer from Munich. She was hard working and provided the fantastic images. I have so many people to thank including writer Leslie Mulkey, historian Prof. Mamadou Diouf, and editor Marie Planqouis. Documentary films are made by the labor of love and it was a dream come true to work with Sam Pollard and Victor Kanefsky.
4) What is the most important theme of the film?
5) The visuals and the music are stunning. How did the producers achieve this?
Again it was the craft of cinematographer Sanne Kurz. She is a school colleague of a close friend of mine who has won prizes for best cinematography in Europe. She loves films and she prefers to work on films with artistic merit turning down commercial offers. We worked as a two person team: she did the filming and I did the sound as I had experience in mobile recording. When Ablaye and I listened to our first recordings in 2007, which can be heard on the CD “Sira” (Motéma Music), we could not believe it – it felt that someone else is playing, we were actually shocked. So I was never worried about the music, I just hoped that the film would be strong enough to carry the music.
What do you want to say about the film?
As with my music I don’t feel comfortable talking about my work. Go see it once, twice… I hope that we achieved a complex and rich film, which will speak to the audience differently each time they watch it. I hope it will evoke deep emotions, heal and if it touches a fraction of the experience of a living piece similar to the oral memory of West Africa all goals would be achieved.
What would Ablaye Cissoko want to tell the readers of the TAN the Afro News?
I just reached him and this is what he said:
“All I as a griot do is sing and play. Whenever I get a chance to perform- I feel honored and the transmission of the Griot culture is done. That is my role.”
I would like to thank Volker Goetze , Ablaye Cissoko, The Vancouver International Film Festival, Helen Yaki and above all our esteemed publisher and editor Honore Gbedze. Thank you for doing so much in such a short time period. It was -a real team effort.
Ariadne Sawyer, MA. firstname.lastname@example.org