Summary of the Film’s Story and Production

Posted: June 22, 2012 by phermc10 in Context of Film

The film is written and directed by Dani Kougate, produced in 1995. The film is about the 13th Century Sundijata Epic, the most widely known traditional narrative of West Africa, starring Sotigui Kouyate.

One day in a rural village of Wagadu in Burkina Faso, a griot, namely Djeliba, took a long journey into the city in order to begin the inculcating of the king’s decendant, a young boy named Mabo Keita to provide him with an enticing history of his ancestor, the Keita king Maghan Kon Fatta Konate, not that of gorillas explained by Darwin’s evolution theory in his school lessons.

Mabo soon began increasingly preoccupied with the story of the fates of Sundjata and his family, resulting in tension among his parents, his teacher and the story-telling griot. Mabo’s mother who considered Mabo to be successful only if he could master Western education was worried about the griot’s influence over Mabo’s performance at school and his future. His father on the other hand did not want to be stern towards both his son and the guest who he admired.

The epic tells of many adventures and misfortunes as it recounts he life of Sundjata Keita, the lion king who turned the land of Mande into the great trading empire of Mali. He was the grandson of Buffalo woman of Do. His father, king of Mande , was the leader of the royal Keita clan who was endowed with the spirit of lion. Sundjata was born lame to his ugly mother, Sogolon, second wife to the Keita king and had to withstand envy and oppression from the first wife of the king Sassouma Berete and her two children in their competition for the throne. The film ends with Sundjata Keita being exiled from the Kingdom of Mande as the griot was refused to continue the story for Mabo.

The film offers an insight into the dilemma facing many African communities in this fast-changing world to negotiate their pre-colonial history and post-colonial influences as they move towards modernization, industrialization and technological growth, especially in terms of education shaping society. The main theme is the value of an ethnocentric education as a way to preserve cultural heritage and identity in an age of impersonalized education and globalization.

Thal Sandy Tun

You can see the film in Youtube. It is divided into 7 parts with English subtitle

***For your further information:

Keita and Kouyate are the two clans existing in the real life, even up to now.  The Kouyate clan’s members are the griots, or can be simply called advisors, of the Keitas. The special relationship between the two clans first started when king Nare Maghann Konate introduce to Sundjiata griot Balla Fasseke, who would give advice to Sundjata during his reign. Balla Fasseke, therefore, is considered to be the very first griot and the founder of Kouyate griot clan today.

Nguyen Thanh Hang


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