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Film

I'll Sing For You

By Graham Henderson
Published March 14, 2006

I’ll Sing For You, a documentary directed by Swiss filmmaker Jacques Sarasin, is about the life and music of the veteran Malian bluesman Boubacar Traoré, known to his fellow countrymen as “Kar Kar.”

I’ll Sing For You, a documentary directed by Swiss filmmaker Jacques Sarasin, is about the life and music of the veteran Malian bluesman Boubacar Traoré, known to his fellow countrymen as “Kar Kar.” It is based on the story of Kar Kar’s life as depicted in the book Mali Blues by Lieve Joris, but is a different and exceptional odyssey through the geography both of a country and of the human soul.

            The tall, disheveled Sarasin zooms around Paris, where he now lives, on a scooter. I meet him at a sidewalk cafe in the east of the city. We sit in the sunshine drinking coffee and discussing how he came to make one of the most original films created about African music.

            “I’m crazy, of course,” he says. “I did what you should never do and made a film about someone who was almost unknown. Malian blues music was out of fashion at the time. There was no reason to make the film. That was why, in the end, I made exactly the film that I wanted to make.”

            “It was slow work. We were in Mali for 10 days before we even got the camera out. We just took a lot of time, had lunch, walked in the streets, talked about things. Even when we started filming we just shot Kar Kar eating breakfast, walking around, whatever. He had never been filmed alone before and we wanted to get him used to the camera. There was a lot of sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Even after we got started it was slow work. We got an average of just 30 minutes’ footage every day, just 16½ hours in one and a half months.”

            Maybe it was this patience that contributed to the calm flow of the final film. Sarasin and his team have the ability to watch with the camera, to show you what is happening, to capture the slow-burning effects of a beautiful scene, of an interesting face, of an achingly beautiful song.

             “Some people ask me why Kar Kar never speaks in the film,” Jacques says. “It was not that he didn’t talk. It was just that the most important things that he said are in his songs—his political views, his relationship with his wife and his children, his feelings about Islam and expatriation.”

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I’ll Sing For You was released in France and the U.S. in December. The soundtrack was released in France and the U.S. on Harmonia Mundi.

 

The film was inspired by the book Mali Blues by Lieve Joris, published in the U.S. by Lonely Planet Publications (ISBN 0 86442 532 5), priced $12.95