The West African country of Mali is a birthplace of the blues, a musical tradition later carried by the transatlantic slave trade to America's cotton fields. Yet today, the music and musicians of Mali are in grave danger. As fundamentalist Islam and sharia law become more widespread, dance and secular music are prohibited, musical instruments are destroyed, and musicians are forced to flee their homeland.
The vibrant documentary MALI BLUES follows four artists: Fatoumata "Fatou" Diawara is a rising star on the global pop scene (memorably featured in Abderrahmane Sissako's acclaimed drama Timbuktu). Bassekou Kouyaté is a celebrated ngoni player and traditional griot. Master Soumy is a young street rapper influenced by hip-hop. Ahmed Ag Kaedi is the leader of the Tuareg band Amanar and a guitar virtuoso. Each combines rich musical traditions with contemporary influences, using their music to stand up to extremism and inspire tolerance and peace.
"Nuanced meditations on the limbo of the diaspora and celebrations of Mali's ethnic plurality color the fabric of this film, which vibrates with urgency and life. The showcase of Mali's ripe musical heritage-from ngoni riffs to pulsating percussions and soulful raps-connects and engages audiences in the combat against silence and demand for explanations. Opening the room for honest conversations about long-standing traditions, including those that are due to be broken, this documentary is at its bravest when tackling real issues that threaten its subjects' collective voice. The goosebump-inducing sequence in which Fatou heroically denounces female circumcision not only serves to advocate music's potential in affecting real-life practices, but also marks a zenith of the music documentary genre." —Cinema Scope
U.S. Premiere, 2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival
North American Premiere, 2016 Toronto International Film Festival
World Premiere, 2016 Visions du Reel Film Festival
2017 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
2017 Vermont International Film Festival
2016 Munich International Film Festival
2016 IndieLisboa International Film Festival
2016 Dubai International Film Festival
2016 FilmAfrica Film Festival
2016 International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA)
"[This documentary] follows Fatou as she prepares for her first concert in her home country of Mali, a place with a deeply rich music history that was threatened when Islamic fundamentalists banned music in 2012. A colorful, vivid look at Fatou's complicated history with her home, MALI BLUES is both a triumph for Fatou and for Mali's music traditions." —CBC Music