Film reception 2

Posted: July 7, 2012 by thanhn09 in Awards


+OCIC Award from Amiens International Film Festival 1995

+Oumarou Ganda Prize from the Panafrican Film and Television Festival in Ouagadougou 1995, with a theme “Cinema and History”

+Intl. Independent Award of Mannheim-Heldelberg, best feature film from International Filmfestival Mannheim- Heidelberg 1995

+The Ecumenical Film Prize from International Filmfestival Mannheim- Heidelberg 1995

+Junior Prize at the Cannes Film Festival

The film was also shown in film festivals, such as New York African Film Festival 2005, Film Festival of kerala IFFK 2010.

For mainstream audience, the film seems to be unpopular as the score in IMDb website is quite low as well as very few people left a comment or review there. Review of this film is also hardly seen at individual blogs. However, among professionals, who are working in various fields such as education, culture, African Studies, the film has been a hot, important topic of discussion. It brings up a question of how connecting people, especially African people, in modern times with the past, where the history and their origins can be found. The writers, such as Ernest Okello Ogwang, have said that African countries, as the used-to-be colonized countries moving towards industrialization and modernization, are experiencing the predomination of Western values, and hence the clash between Western and African culture, modernity and tradition. African people in modern times are supposed to find themselves in these clashes in the process of finding their identity. Only by learning and knowing their histories well can they find their right place between modernity and tradition and overcome the clashes. Dr. John Stdustill has referred this idea to the scene of King Sundyata finally could stand up straight thanks to  the wood stick not the iron one.

“The king is compared by the griot to a tree, whose roots must sink into the earth and into the mythical past–he must rely on his clan, his ancestors and his society, not just on technological superiority. Also, the Hero must be one who struggles to overcome great moral challenges, not just one who easily falls into the lap of privilege and the seduction of political power and dominance. “ ( Dr John Stdustill)

Thanks to the wooden stich, King Sundjiata managed to stand up for the first time.

Most of the writers mentioned the indispensable role of griots in solving this problem by helping African modern people get connected to the past, their ancestor and their seemingly forgotten culture, through which people identify themselves.At the same time, Little (2000) in “ Òu est mon griot” showed his concern for how the griots’ roles are changing to adjust to the society dominated by Western values. The writers also made compliments on the film as it has performed successfully the role of a griot, and even more than that. Not only does the film use stories to teach people about the past like conventional griots do, but it is also a wake-up call for the African nations and African people not to lose their identities as well as their cultures on being exposed to Western cultures.

Unfortunately, as far as I have searched on the Internet, there is no articles or studies addressing the effect on African people or their reception of the film. However, interestingly I happened to find out that the film was used as a teaching material in classes teaching American primary and middle school students about African storytelling traditions and African cultures in general by showing to students African films. The role of African griots, an element of African storytelling is one of the focus of this teaching and for Claudia Miller, one of the teachers who came up with the teaching plan, the film is a great choice by stating that “the griot will come alive through the viewing of the Keita! The heritage of the Griot” (Miller,n.d ). You can learn more about these African culture education classes by clicking here and here .

In a nutshell, after taking a look at the film reviews, I observe that the film has been receiving compliments for not only addressing the risk of African people in modern times losing their own identities and cultures but also providing a promising solution to it, which is the griots and their stories.

“It is a story of discovery, of self-discovery through tradition, through the ‘heritage of the griot’ “(Micheal Dembrow)

“Kouyate creates new “meaning” by inspiring contemporary Africans to look not to Western nations for their political and social models, but rather to the return of pre-colonial modes of knowing and thinking to usher in a new era of Mande cultural independence and prosperity.” ( Justin Lewis)

* Updated:

I found this review quite interesting as the writer has pointed out two points that are rarely brought up in other reviews that I have read, which are Djeliba’s notion of destiny vs. Mabo’s teacher’s adherence to “the survival of the fittest”, and the image of resistant women in the film.

Posted by Nguyen Thanh Hang.


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