Youssou N'dour: I Bring What I Love Directed by: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi Cast: Youssou N'dour, Moustapha Mbaye, Peter Gabriel Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: Unrated
32nd Portland International Film Festival English: Yes, and French w/subtitles
Plot: Senegalese singer Youssou N'dour begins work on an album to celebrate his Islamic faith. Then the terrorist attacks of September 11th occur, and N'dour pushes back the release date. In 2004 he releases the album, but finds the Senegalese people are unwilling to accept the album, claiming it's sacrilegious. The film documents N'dour's attempt to find success for this album.
Who’s It For? Fans of world music, or anyone interested in learning more about it. N'dour's a really great singer and an interesting interview.
Vasarhelyi's film follows Youssou N'dour as he conceives, produces and promotes Egypt, an album about Islam. N'dour's a huge superstar in his native Senegal and somewhat famous in Europe as well; but as a secular singer. He seeks out a group of Egyptian artists to collaborate with on his project and everyone seems incredibly excited and hopeful. Three years after 9/11, N'dour decides to release his album. The performance clips not only look wonderful, but sound great. N'dour is clearly an accomplished singer, whether he's performing at the club he owns in Dakar or in front of thousands at Carnegie Hall. The performance parts of the film are the highlights.
Unfortunately, the film lacks a really compelling story. Though N'dour's a really interesting interview, the movie focuses on this particular album. Will the people of Senegal accept this album? I know it matters to N'dour and his management team, but considering the people love everything else he does, the stakes don't seem too high. If this doesn't work, they'll like the next one. Then he's nominated for a Grammy, which sounds amazing ... until he mentions he's been nominated 4 other times. It's like watching an underdog film about Kate Winslet. It's disappointing because so many of the other elements of the film work. The colors are gorgeous and the shots of Senegal are fabulous. If the film had focused on N'dour and his place in Senegal, his importance to the culture, I feel like it would have been more compelling.
Final Score: 6/10