Djembefola by Laurent Chevallier celebrates the homecoming of djembe virtuoso Mamady Keita from his home in Brussels to his family’s village in Guinea. The film documents Keita’s hammy mode of performing and contagious love for drumming. At all times, Chevallier keeps his charismatic lead character front and center. Keita makes his way from teaching djembe in a staid classroom in Brussels to the post colonial city of Conakry to the village he left 26 years before, with reunions and opportunities to play the drums along the way. The film’s structure builds to a series of encounters at the village and Keita’s search for the answer to how he came to be a drummer. —documentarystartshere
Born June 6, 1955 in Paris (France)
After studying at the Ecole Louis Lumière, Laurent Chevallier became camera assistant on numerous feature films, collaborating with René Allio (Return to Marseille, 1980) and Jean-Jacques Beinex (Diva, 1981). He then graduated to cameraman and then, from 1986, director of photography on films such as The Revenge of the feathered serpent (Gérard Oury, 1984) and specialists (Patrice Leconte, 1985).
An avid mountaineer Laurent Chevallier charted the crossing of Antarctica by Jean-Louis Etienne as the subject of his first feature documentary, South of the South, made in 1990. Djembefola, L’enfant noir and another documentary Circus Baobab (2000) have all followed with great acclaim. In 2003, he directed the feature film Life without Brahim. —Africulture