Western Africa is the western most part of the Africa Continent, covering an area of roughly five million square kilometers for its sixteen countries. Burkina Faso where the film was shot is one of them.

Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) is the largest film festival that is held once in every two years in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, in West Africa since 1969 after independence of the region from British and France ruling. It attracts many a great local and international filmmakers and celebrities.

In colonial time, films were only allowed to be produced by Western filmmakers for Africa who distorted the image of Africa as an exotic region devoid of culture and history. The Africa Queen was said to be one of those films. Following independence, it has become the task of African film directors and the people to correct the largely flawed image and rescue the real one of the region abroad and home as films became one of the important and effective tools to do so.

There is an idea that filmmakers are acting like griots through their films in order to confront the outside world which is imposing radical changes on African ageless traditions. The director of the film Keita, Dani Kouyate, himself is a descendant of griots for the Keita clan. The existence of griots dated back to 2000 years ago when the society specialized in different groups such as farmers, blacksmiths, hunters, court men and griots. Looking back at history, human arrival in the continent began as early as 12,000 BC and many glorious empires such as Ghana (750-1076), Mali (1235-1645) and Songhai (1275-1591) were accomplished.

Therefore, the films concentrates mainly on social and political topics instead of only on commercial entertainment theme and conflict between tradition and modernity is one of them, showing the changes infected in African societies from the West.  By doing these tasks, filmmakers are trying to unite the society back which is increasingly split by individualism and competition charged with Western ideological influence through schools.

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Griots who are well-known for their resourcefulness and skillfulness in storytelling are fading away in African society while they are increasingly accepting the reality of widespread penetration of European culture. The work of a griot is to tell stories that are enticing, inspirational and never-ending, passing down traditions from generation to generation. However, a new form of knowledge and system are being introduced, the future seems not so right for them.

In the film, Keita, we have seen the presence of European culture in modern Africa: urbanization, lifestyles of family, form of bureaucratic government, outward-looking education, and language. Mabo, who is a descendant of Keita to whom Djeliba is a griot by line, speaks French with his parents, attends modern school of western knowledge, and uses fork and spoon when he eats spaghetti. His mother also does not do ordinary housework as she can keep a house maid. What she does is to make sure that her son, Mabo, studies well and succeeds in his education. Thus Djeliba becomes more and more alienated from Mabo’s mother as he prolongs his stay in their house. When he leaves their house, Mabo is left wondering and trying to understand the meaning of traditional concepts which are overtaken by his western education.

Young people are no longer interested in griots, let alone listening to their stories. This is mainly due to the arrival of outsiders who disrupted their own way of life by changing or eliminating traditions. Schools that require today’s young children to begin attending at the age of around 6 years take advantage of their innocent mind to plague with western ideologies, uprooting the role of griots in the society who are there to pass down traditional way of life and ideas. This seems quite a long battle between tradition and modernity. Who will win? The end will and should be resolved by those like Mabo.

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Films can help us understand and learn a lot about a country, its people, its cultures, values, situations and other their own experiences. African film industry is a thriving one which has much to tell their own stories to the whole world audience in the most effective communication form.

Folktale and oral storytelling are very important in the cinematic traditions of Africa. It is because they believe it to be a successful method in delivering African worldview and offsetting overgeneralization resulted from colonialism and neocolonial ideologies over their peoples, cultures and countries. Neocolonialism is the term used to describe the geopolitical practice of using capitalism, business corporations, and cultural imperialism to dominate a country.

Looking back at the history, during the 1870s and 1900, Africa was confronted with European imperialist antagonism, military invasions, and subsequent conquest and colonization. Many parts of the continent, apart from Ethiopia and Liberia, had been under colonial ruling by European powers – Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Epic’ is the genre of the film that African film makers use to achieve their purpose of counter-discourse mostly because these epic films are filled with highly accomplished and aesthetic description of African traditions and culture. Therefore, African cosmology in these stories offers us an insight into how African people see the world and its peoples.

Keita’ is the film that uses recitation of creation myths which is based on the narration of ancestral heroes and their endeavors and achievements by connecting them to the present generations. Therefore, they not only qualify the persons in their cosmology but are able to apply those views to the wider world.

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Personal Reflection

Posted: July 19, 2012 by phermc10 in Personal reflection
Djeliba is a normal story teller to want keita to know his ancestor’s history. Therefore, he come to keita’s house and start talking the whole story of the keita’s ancestor until keita’s parents conflicted each other. Actually, He is not only telling a story, at the same time, teach some knowledge with the connection to the society. For example, in the movie, he told keita that why the hunter always beats the lion in stories and it is because it’s the hunter who tells the stories, but if the lion tell his stories, he(the hunter) would occasionally win, and think anything what you do, be confident in the future and the last one is the future emerges from the past. In my opinion, it means that whatever we do, we need to think over the past and be confident to do anything in the future. Therefore, I feel the movie give a some message that the past always have a connection the future in any condition.
by Thein Htike Win

Peer Screening 2

Posted: July 19, 2012 by phermc10 in Peer Screening
  1. How do you feel about the movie after watching it? What is your first impression?

My first impression about this movie is provoking the curiosity.

2.  What do you think that the griot in the movie is trying to do with Mabo? Have you ever had that kind of person in your life so far?

I think he wants to make Mabo to have knowledge about his origin. I had my grandmother who told me stories.

3. Do you realize the intension of the director of this movie after you watch it? Is he doing something meaningful or successful in doing so? To which audience does he bear in mind?

Honestly, I am not so sure about the intension of the director. I think the message he wants to convey to the audience is not sent effectively to them. It seem like he targets the parents and teachers who focus strongly on western education system.

4. How do you feel about western education as depicted by the movie? Please elaborate.

I feel like western education concentrates the scientific as well as practical knowledge. It cares about not rules, but present than the past and origin.

5. What do you think western education does to our societies? Please elaborate.

From my point, western education changed our societies into capitalist societies which are full of materialism but no warm relationships among the people as well as following duties and responsibility.

6. Do you know the parents of your grandparents? Were they important to you? If yes, in what way? If no, in what way?

Though I know who they are, I have not heard much about them.

7.  What do you think is the dilemma faced by the African societies according to the movie? What aspects do they resemble to your own?

Neglecting own educational customs and origin is the dilemma faced by the African societies. The fact similar to African societies is that our society also was changed to adopt western education system while ignoring traditional learning techniques and customs.

8. Do you think story-telling is important? To whom? What kind of things you think to gain from this kind of continuing practice?

In my opinion, to maintain culture and customs of specific tribes, storytelling is one of the ways which can be used to close the gap between generations. One of the positive points by telling story to younger generation, they can have the chance to know own history and way of daily life in ancient times.

.Thal Sandy Tun



The meaning of name

Posted: July 19, 2012 by thanhn09 in Context of Film

In the film, the little boy Mabo Keita was asked about the meaning of his name by griot Djieba. Mabo didn’t know, so griot Djieba Kouyate decided to tell him a long story of his ancestor, king Sundjata Keita, who was also in search for his name before coming to reign Mali empire. “Name” here does not only mean the name literally, but it also means origin and identity. For the griots, the only way for the African people to find their identity is to come back to history. Their roots stay in history. However, it is the long way to reach the end, and each one has to go by himself. The griot’s role is just like a compass, pointing out and help them to go in the right direction. In fact, the film ends with the scene the griot left Mabo and let him alone continue searching for his “name”. The same situation happened with king Sundjiata Keita.

Anyway, it is interesting to find out a little bit what the names, Keita and Kouyate, literally mean.

Keita is a combination of “Ke”, meaning “inheritance”, and “Ta”, meaning “to take”. So Keita means “the one who took the inheritance”, which implies to the story of Sundjiata “stealing” the inheritance from his older brother, the first born son of  King Nare Maghann Konate( Aggatuci, 2010). .

Kouyate means “there is a secret between you and me”. Secret here can be understood as stories of history, ancestors and identity being shared among Kouyate generations and between Keita descendants and Kouyate griots (Eyre, 2000, p. 31).

Aggatuci, C. (2010). Keita film notes & reviewing guides

Eyre, B. (2000). In griot time: an American guitarist in Mali. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Posted by Nguyen Thanh Hang.

Films are said to be one of the most distinctly modern art form. They came into existence in the 1890s and by 1910 they already established as a major industry for commercial entertainment. Keita: the Heritage of the Griot is obviously a narrative film, telling the story of Sundjata. Of course narratives are all around us from bedtime stories to morning newspapers. Narrative film theory is all about how stories are told – how they are put into shape for a viewing subject by camera movement, lighting, editing and other cinematic techniques.


They are a scene or scenes or sequence that is inserted into a scene of the film in the present time and they deal with the past. They can be sometimes an entire film.

In this film, we can see the story of the Lion king as flashback as the griot recounts it to Mabo. At the same time, it exerts a powerful force on the characters which causes tension among the parents, the teacher and the griot as Mabo loses interest in the present.


It is a cinematic technique in which the camera tracks to zoom or shoot a subject as it moves. The film begins with the shot of Djeliba Kouyate dozing in his hammock at his home in Wagadu, with voiceover narration in the background in Jula language as the camera moves across the landscape of Wagadu.



Sound is one essential thing of a film for its extensive use to enhance the presentation. It has two forms: diegetic which is actual sound and non-diegetic which comes from unseen sources in the film.

As Djeliba leaves his home and reaches the city, the background sound is a mix of both: the theme song, chirp of birds, rowing of the boat he took and the sound of motor vehicles.


The choice of shot has a great effect on the structure and meaning of a film which an audience will interpret.

Establishing shot is used at a new location to give the audience a sense of locality. In this film, we get the idea that the griot reaches the city where Mabo is living through the shot of cars and motorbike halting at a traffic light as he crosses it.

Close-up shots are used in many ways with many reasons. They show tension or details such as character’s emotions. When a director avoids close-up shots deliberately, he may create a distance between the character and the audience emotionally. In this film, one function of close-up is to show its main characters – Mabo and Djeliba with multiple times. Another is, using medium close-up covering the character’s head and shoulders, to draw attention to the scene of tension when Mabo’s teacher and the griot argue with each other over Mabo.


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