Friday, June 12, 2009

Movie Review: Yousouu Ndour: I Bring What I Love

Yousouu Ndour: I Bring What I Love ** ½
Directed by: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

Note: I saw this movie at last year's Toronto Film Festival, at the insistence of a friend who had heard about it on CBC Radio. I wrote this very small capsule review at the time, never thinking that the film would actually be released, and therefore, that I would never actually publish my review. But, the film is getting a limited release this week, so I figured what the hell, and decided to post the review anyway. It's short, but I think it tells you all you need to know about whether or not you'll like the film. My friend, by the way, fell asleep during the movie!

Yousouu Ndour is one of the biggest music stars in Africa. He is a Sufi Muslim, who although devout, had never really sung about his faith. In 2000, he decided that it was time to change that, and so he records a record called Egypt, where he sings all about his faith, and Bamba, who is huge to the Sufi Muslim population. Despite great reviews, no one in Africa will buy the album, and no radio station will go near it. The failure of the album in his country is painful, but it is accompanied by his biggest international hit. Nominated for a Grammy, for the fifth time, he finally wins it, and suddenly, all the nasty things said about him are forgotten. He is a hero again. The documentary Youssou Ndoir: I Bring What I Love tracks Ndour through a few years in his life around this time. It is insightful, and proves that Ndour has an amazing singing voice, and is an immense talent. What the movie lacks is any real conflict. The failure of the album doesn’t seem to effect Ndour that much. He continures on his way. Yousouu Ndour is a real talent, and for people who like him, this will be a good documentary. For everyone else, it will be a mild amusement at best. It is a fine documentary, yet I felt there was something missing in it. Ndour has led an interesting, challenging life, and I felt the film merely scratched the surface of that. Yes, you get to hear some very good music, in a style that most of us would never normally hear, but there should be something more to a documentary to get us truly involved with it. This one just doesn't quite get there.

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