He inspired a nation to fight for its independence. He fell from his position of high esteem to the streets of France. He found love and tragedy. And now, Mali singer Boubacar "KarKar" Traoré has made a movie.
It's hard to believe in this day and age that a single man can unite a country through his music, but that's exactly what KarKar did—and yet he still struggled to make ends meet. In I'll Sing For You, his story is told through a series of interviews, historic video footage, snapshot montages and, of course, his songs.
True to the style of many African movies, I'll Sing For You is choppy, jumping from one scene to the seemingly unrelated next without much explanatory narration. The fact that it's in French and Bambara, the native language of Mali, doesn't help.
The film does, however, possess an off-kilter beauty. Its strength is found in the brilliant color footage of Mali and the haunting, soulful songs. Though KarKar's style is derived from that of Elvis Presley, his music has a deeper feeling. It's bluesy and moving, transfixing audiences, with the power to make little kids sit still. Even when he's just playing guitar, each note is heavy with a lifetime of accumulated hope and anguish.
Nostalgia and motion are the ruling sentiments. The former is heard in the soundtrack and narration (performed eloquently by Mamadou Sangaré); the latter is presented in the rapid progress between struggle, joy and despair and reinforced by the restless cinematography.
I'll Sing For You is a personal history interspersed with politics and philosophy and a dash of Islam. The artistic documentary is worth the sitting—or at least cheaper than buying the CD.
I'll Sing For You is in French and Bambara with English subtitles and runs 76 minutes. It is playing at the E Street Cinema.
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