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It is an ordinary afternoon for young Mabo Keïta, at home, in Burkina Faso (West Africa). While his parents are taking a nap, he reads a schoolbook on the front porch when a stranger - an elderly man carrying his own hammock - appears for an unexpected visit. It turns out that the old man is a griot, a West African musician/entertainer whose performances include tribal histories and genealogies. The position of a griot is a time-honored one and passed down from father to son for many generations.
The griot announces that he's on a mission and has arrived to teach young Mabo about his history. Mabo is curious and eager to learn about his past, and soon his interest in schoolwork diminishes. As a result, a disagreement arises between his parents. Mabo's mother thinks that a griot's work is no longer important. She and his teacher don't want the griot's lessons interfering with Mabo's schoolwork. On the other hand, the boy's father doesn't want to deny his son the tradition of lessons from the griot - after all, they've been an important part of his family for generations. There is a conflict between modern and traditional ideas.
Writer and director, Dani Kouyaté comes from a long line of griots in his family. His father, Sotigui Kouyaté, a real life griot, plays the griot in the movie. Perhaps, for that reason, Kouyaté is successful in transferring the art of oral storytelling to the movie screen. Through the griot and young boy, the Sundjata epic, set in early 13th century, is retold in the film. It is about a man who turned his nation (the Mande people) into the great Malian trading empire (in West Africa). It's a riveting story full of magic realism.
The lessons of Keita: The Heritage of the Griot - traditional versus modern (Western) views and the fact that our history plays an important to our lives - not only applies to the African culture, but it all cultures. "It's an old world and the future emerges from the past," the griot tells Mabo.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies - the setting, music and actors tell the story very well. I highly recommend it to one and all - young and old.
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