Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Boubacar Traore
Photo: First Run Features

Directed, Produced & Written by: Jacques Sarasin.
Adapted from the novel Mali Blues by Lieve Joris
Director of Photography: Stephan Oriach.
Edited by: Bernard Josse.
Music by: Boubacar Traoré.
Released by: First Run Features.
Language: French & Bambar.
Country of Origin: France. 80 min. Not Rated.
With: Boubacar Traoré, Ali Farke Touré & Ballaké Sissoko.

And sing he does. This musical journey focuses squarely on Afro-pop singer/guitarist Boubacar Traoré, known as KarKar, as he travels and performs throughout Mali, which should share equal billing. In the early ‘60s, he was the Malian Elvis Presley. He also helped popularize the electric guitar. His songs on the radio became anthems for the newly independent and optimistic country. This mood is considerably contrasted with the present day footage of dusty villages of thatched-roof mud huts, roaming goats, and the villagers' cautious looks cast to the camera. Without a record-buying public and because of family obligations, he disappeared from the scene, later emigrating to France, and now has resurfaced with a following. It is his friends who provide the on-camera interviews, leaving the still-youthful and taciturn KarKar to perform, creating more of a sketch than a portrait. Because his life story is told by secondary sources, KarKar remains a distant figure. However, this film is really about the music, which is both lively and melancholic. Even a song with the lyric “Glory to you, young people of Mali/Don’t attack our army because our soldiers are brave and courageous,” sounds mournful. The subject of many songs is his beloved late wife, Pierrette - “Your name will not disappear because I’ll sing it all over the world.” Overall, this documentary will have strong appeal to world-music followers, such as the listeners of KCRW’s Cafe L.A. or WXPN's World Cafe (both available on the Web), but the uninitiated may feel this tribute/travelogue is too long. KarKar's performance is intimate, the film is not. Kent Turner
June 4, 2004



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