Keimena #40: An Opera of the World
by Manthia Diawara

Monday September 18, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
An Opera of the World, 2017, Portugal/USA/Mali, 71 min.
Director: Manthia Diawara

In An Opera of the World, Malian filmmaker Manthia Diawara uses opera to reflect upon the migration of people and culture, mainly between Europe and Africa.

In 2008 Diawara returned to Bamako, where he was born in 1953, to film rehearsals for an opera performed by an all-African cast. Based on a libretto by the Chadian poet and playwright Koulsy Lamko, Bintou Were, a Sahel Opera depicts the struggles of a young woman, pregnant after several rapes, not clear on who is the father. Hoping to leave her homeland for a better future, she meets a people smuggler with whom she embarks on the journey north.

Bintou Were serves as a point of departure for Diawara’s carefully composed film-essay. His An Opera of the World interlaces documentation of that unique African opera with historical footage of migration and interviews. We meet four eminent public intellectuals who are friends of the artist and thus sharing thoughts and feelings frankly: Fatou Diome, Alexander Kluge, Nicole Lapierre and Richard Sennett. We see the Malian capital as it is today in behind-the-scenes details: a trip to the market for textiles; a conversation with the librettist; the Badalabugu Bridge across the Niger River. We also visit contemporary Lesvos, where the artist travelled while living in Greece.

Indeed, upon receiving the invitation to participate in documenta 14, Diawara decided to edit his long-planned film in Athens, connecting here to an editor, Kenan Akkawi, whose own family had come from Syria to Greece some 30 years ago, when he was a boy. The collaboration added depth to a rich story of migrations: crossing into the world of opera from the tradition of sung wisdoms which has characterized West African culture for centuries; the movement of opera from Europe to Africa and the movement of people across continents in search of better lives…

—Monika Szewczyk, Curator documenta 14

Posted in Public TV on 09.18.2017