Monday, May 2, 2011

Mama Africa

Miriam Makeba, the great South African singer, earned the name Mama Africa because of her activism in support of pan-African peace and unity.  Besides her singing career, she was friends with all the leaders of the newly minted independent African states in the 60's, and spoke passionately in the UN against South African apartheid.

The movie Mama Africa follows Makeba's life from her early discovery in South Africa, when her songs were included in an American documentary about South African apartheid.  When she went to the Venice Film Festival for the film's opening, the South African authorities expelled her.  She fled to the US, where friends helped her career, and Harry Belafonte's support shot her to prominence.  However, when she married Stokely Carmichael, her career immediately dried up in the US with the cancellation of all her engagements, and she moved to Guinea at the invitation of the president, before finally returning to South Africa after Mandela's release.

This was a good movie.  An audience question of the director revealed that the music had come from a wide range of sources.  Hot Docs is great in that there's often a film expert in the audience who appreciates how difficult it would be to weave such a diversity of audio sources into a smooth movie.  Take it in if you get the chance.

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