The 64th Cannes film festival is presenting two films from the Nordic country referring to Africa. Or, it is quite evidence that two subjects can be directly connected to our continent: illegal emigration and Music.
The first film is the tragedy of our young people dreaming of a better life. The second is about the legendary singers and musicians who served as a standard bearer of our continent.
When the north looks to the South
That's what the two brothers filmmakers from Finland, Aki and Mika Kaurismäki, chose to talk about. One is questioning the present; the other is trying to resuscitate the past.
The first imagines a fiction where an underage African immigrant (Laika) meets a French writer (Marcel Marx) in the Havre, a city in the north of France. Both they rise against "the cold wall of human indifference" and against the "blind machinery of the Western constitutionally governed state".
This is the story of The Havre, the Finish film in the Competition made the younger brother Aki Kaurismäki (born in 1957).
As for older (Maki, born in 1955), he chose to trace the life of Miriam Makeba who was so associated to the continent that she was called Mama Africa, and this is simply the title of the documentary.
Mama Africa is the homage to this extraordinary and impressive artist who incarnates the voice and the hope of Africa, writes the filmmaker.
In fact everybody knows the talent and the hard fight of this woman who, in her exile, went around the world spreading wherever she performed, the deep voice of her motherland and mother continent.
When she was not on the stage, she was reading letters to the United Nations claiming her people's rights to live free and equal.
Since 1959 she was banned from South Africa after her participation in an anti-apartheid film Come back, Africa shot secretly in her country and was a big success in Venice the same year.
When in the 1990's Nelson Mandela, was freed and the apartheid came to its end, she went back after having received all kind of honors from all over the world and even the French nationality. But she went back home after more than 30 years of exile.
Your story is never better than when you tell it yourself.
It happens that the northern filmmakers are interested into Africa. But it is not sure that a lot of Finish ones did. It is not bad, but…
One should admit that it is paradoxical that there is none African film in the competition, but there is well place for films about Africa made by European filmmakers.
If we can understand that, in a fiction, a filmmaker is free to imagine an African character, there are few things that we can't forgive to a documentary about an icon of our continent like Miriam Zensi Makeba.
The filmmaker, even if he could manage to access to a lot of archive material, seems not to know few important things about Mama Africa.
He forgets for example that she was the first black woman to win (with Harry Belafonte) a Grammy Award in 1965. It was for their album An evening with Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba.
He forgets also the fact that she sang also in Arabic when she was invited in a black-South African delegation to the Pan African Festival in Algiers in 1969. That's how he doesn't mention that she got also the Algerian citizenship from Hawari Boumedien [credited also as Houari Boumédienne, Ndlr] after the Guinean nationality offered by president Sékou Touré.
Doing this the documentary omits an important aspect of the fight of the Diva: she was calling for the peace in her country, but also for the unity of the whole continent.
But you need to be African to understand how important this is. But still in Cannes is as if she is around and this is really something.