Click on the green links. Bamako .
Yeelen (voted best African film in a Mubi poll)
“Every nation has the right to be represented by the cinema” (Souleymane Cissé).
To which i would add, and for its cinema and other cultural treasures to be properly appreciated.
Mali has a magnificent cultural heritage, and along with superb films by directors like Souleymane Cissé, there has been tremendous music, from Tinariwen and Ali Farka Touré among others. Timbuktu is a legendary city of learning- so what a proud day it was for little Hay-on-Wye in Wales to become its twin in 2007. I have visited it- if only on google earth satellite!
Anyway, here are films from Mali on this site. I look forward to seeing more, but the masterpieces Yeelen and Finyé are probably my favourite African films, while Bamako (its director was raised in Mali) is a telling indictment of, and puts on trial, the exploitative World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Fans of the Greek director Angelopoulos may be interested that cinematographer on Mother of the Dunes is Giorgos Arvanitis, while among the cinematographers in Waati is Georgi Rerberg, best known for his work on Tarkovsky’s Mirror. I’ve included Life on Earth; although officially not an indigenous film (rather funded by Burkina Faso, France and Mauritania), cos it is set in Mali. It is hard finding info on the national cinema, and even on Cissé; i’ve had to alter the short unsatisfactory Wikipedia article (adopted by Mubi) below.
Raised in a Muslim family, Souleymane Cissé was a passionate cinephile from childhood. He attended secondary school in Dakar, and returned to Mali in 1960 after national independence. His film career began as an assistant projectionist for a documentary on the arrest of Patrice Lumumba. This triggered his desire to create films of his own, and he obtained a scholarship to the Moscow school of Cinema and Television. In 1970 he returned to Mali once more, and joined the Ministry of Information as a cameraman, where he produced documentaries and short films.
In 1972, he directed his first medium-length film, Cinq jours d’une vie (Five Days in a Life), which tells the story of a young man who drops out of a Qur’anic school and becomes a petty thief living on the street. Cinq Jours premiered at the Carthage Film Festival. In 1974, he directed his first full-length film in the Bambara language, Den muso (The Girl), the story of a young mute girl who has been raped. The girl becomes pregnant, and is rejected both by her family and by the child’s father. Den Muso was banned by the Malian Minister of Culture, and Cissé was arrested and jailed for having accepted French funding.
In 1979, Baara (Work) received the Yenenga’s Talon prize at Fespaco. In 1982, Cissé directed Finyé (Wind), which tells the story of dissatisfied Malian youth rising up against the establishment. This earned him his second Yenenga’s Talon, at 1983’s Fespaco. Between 1984 and 1987, he directed Yeelen (Light), a luminous and symbolic coming-of-age film with shaman father and his son in conflict, infused with mysticism and magic in a timeless landscape, which won the Jury Prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. In 1995, Waati (Time) competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Cissé is president of UCECAO, the Union of Creators and Entrepreneurs of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts of Western Africa.
Here’s Geoff Andrew:
“Cissé has repeatedly depicted the conflict between old and new, using mythical, dreamlike symbols within an otherwise realistic milieu: though Finye’s central characters are modern-day students, its clash between traditional rural and Westernised urban values allows him to abandon, here and there, the scenes of drug-taking, demonstrations and examinations for others in which images of nature- the sea, a ram, a massive tree- dominate. In Yeelen, such imagery was even more pervasive, evoking arcane ritual and elemental forces: the sun beats down on the parched earth, visions are seen in water, flames and smoke abound, and magical power is embodied in oxen, an elephant and a lion, until father and son confront each other in a battle that culminates inthunderous sound and blinding light. Cissé’s compositions are unfussy, usually framing just one or two characters in an otherwise empty landscape; magic is evoked through sound, golden light or the simplest of special effects: a dog walking backwards, a face superimposed on water in a pestle. The result is poetic, strikingly effective and wholly attuned to an African cultural tradition”
Not on Mubi:
- Kuxa Kanema: The Africa Project part 3
for neighbouring countries, check out Blue K’s Songs of the Griot and Kuxa Kanema’s “Lost Continent: Cameroon” and other African lists
- Cinema of Mali, Llc
- Le cinéma au Mali (Cinémédia. les cinémas en Afrique noire), Victor Bachy, Éditions OCIC
Mali "is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d’Ivoire to the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with a population more than 14 million. Its capital is Bamako.
Mali consists of eight regions and its borders to the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country’s southern region, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal rivers. The country’s economic structure centers around agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s natural resources include gold, uranium, and salt. Mali is considered to be one of the poorest nations in the world.
Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. In the late 1800s, Mali fell under French control, becoming part of French Sudan. Mali gained independence in 1959 with Senegal, as the Mali Federation. A year later, the Mali Federation became the independent nation of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state. About half the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day."
Timbuktu "was made prosperous by the tenth mansa of the Mali Empire, Mansa Musa. It is home to Sankore University and other madrasas, and was an intellectual and spiritual capital and centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahya, recall Timbuktu’s golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are today under threat from desertification.
Populated by Songhay, Tuareg, Fulani, and Mandé people, Timbuktu is about 15 km north of the Niger River. It is also at the intersection of an east–west and a north–south Trans-Saharan trade route across the Sahara to Araouane. It was important historically (and still is today) as an entrepot for rock-salt originally from Taghaza, now from Taoudenni.
Its geographical setting made it a natural meeting point for nearby west African populations and nomadic Berber and Arab peoples from the north. Its long history as a trading outpost that linked west Africa with Berber, Arab, and Jewish traders throughout north Africa, and thereby indirectly with traders from Europe, has given it a fabled status, and in the West it was for long a metaphor for exotic, distant lands: “from here to Timbuktu.”
Timbuktu’s long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization is scholarship. Timbuktu is assumed to have had one of the first universities in the world. Local scholars and collectors still boast an impressive collection of ancient Greek texts from that era. By the 14th century, important books were written and copied in Timbuktu, establishing the city as the centre of a significant written tradition in Africa."
The Great Mosque of Djenné "is the largest mud brick or adobe building in the world and is considered by many architects to be the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, albeit with definite Islamic influences. The mosque is located in the city of Djenné, Mali on the flood plain of the Bani River. The first mosque on the site was built around the 13th century, but the current structure dates from 1907. As well as being the centre of the community of Djenné, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Africa. Along with the “Old Towns of Djenné” it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988"