AT LACMA Thu 10.3.2013

Check It Out: West Africa Comes to the West Coast

Film, music and art from Africa converge at LACMA when the month-long celebration of West African cinema, Cameras d’ Afrique film series, kicks off tonight.

The evening’s main attraction is a double feature of the work of Chadian Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, with a special in-person appearance of the writer/director who’s been called one of the “leading lights of African cinema” for a Q&A with Elvis Mitchell.

The first film, Bye Bye Africa, is Haroun’s directorial debut, and the film that propelled him into the international spotlight. “Shot on digital video, Bye Bye Africa is unmistakably a work of cinema, meticulous in its craftsmanship and alive to the vital paradoxes of the medium,” said The New York Times. “An anguished, self-reflexive meditation on the state of African cinema.” The second screening is the U.S. premiere of Haroun’s most recent film, Grigris, which played at Cannes. “It’s a look at the way music defines so many of us and in ways we don’t expect,” says Mitchell. The film also is remarkable for its cinematography, he says, “because it’s somewhat shot at night using digital so he has to keep a really interesting eye on the way blues and reds suffuse into the nighttime light.”

The night features another special guest, renowned kora player Karamo Susso, who will perform during a reception between films. The kora is a centuries-old instrument whose origins have been chronicled by generations of West African storytellers and oral historians. Susso, it’s said, started playing kora as a tiny child and was performing for large crowds before he was even big enough to hold the instrument up by himself.

LACMA is inviting the Cameras d’ Afrique audience to further explore African culture with extended gallery hours for the exhibit, Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks From the Royal Museum for Central Africa.