I Bring What I Love
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema September 22-23
Review by: Larry Thomas
World music usually gets short shrift on the cinema screens of Cincinnati. But leave it to Cincinnati World Cinema to encompass world music in its programming in the quest to bring you film that is fresh and different.
Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love chronicles the life and career of Youssou N’Dour, a pop star of the first magnitude in his West African homeland of Senegal. This world-renowned singer has been on top for the last twenty years, and is considered by many to be the “voice of Africa.” At the height of his popularity, he did a complete 180, which caused him much anxiety. In Senegal, 94 percent of the population is comprised of Sufi Muslims, including N’Dour. Frustrated at the negative image of the Muslim faith, N’Dour produced a CD titled “Egypt,” which melded pop music with religious lyrics, in order to better explain to the world what their religion is all about. To his dismay, his own country was outraged that he would dare merge these two separate entities, and virtually ignored the recording. Then, the tragic events of September 11th meant holding back the release of the album in the rest of the world, particularly the US.
But once “Egypt” was issued in other territories, it received heaps of praise from critics and fans alike, and eventually led N’Dour to his first Grammy award, and a concert in Carnegie Hall.
N’Dour’s early career is briefly touched on, and there’s some interesting archival footage. A team of cinematographers makes sure the film is beautifully shot in all its locations. For those unfamiliar with the subject’s music, this will be a good introduction, as he has a particularly stunning voice. But some of the music from “Egypt” does tend to get repetitious. And there seem to be gaps in N’Dour’s story. We see his grandmother, to whom the film is dedicated, his parents, and two sons. There is never a mention of a wife or mate, which seems odd.
Overall, though, it’s a worthwhile tale of a major artist who needs to pursue his convictions in both his talent and his faith…no matter what. And in today’s world, that takes serious courage. While it may not be the most compelling documentary ever made, it certainly has enough to offer film fans, music fans, and people of faith no matter their religion.
In the archive footage, we see N’Dour performing with Peter Gabriel, and also learn that he has shared the stage with the likes of U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Maybe a Youssou N’Dour concert film might be a worthy consideration for some enterprising producer.
The PG rated Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm. Showings are in Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center. Dr. Babacar Camara of Miami University, and a native of Senegal will lead the post-film discussion.