The Last Song Before The War
Produced by Andrea Papitto & Leola Calzolai-Stewart
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In the middle of the Sahara, north of Timbuktu, Essakane is home to the legendary Festival in the Desert. Bono, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Buffet have all trekked there to jam with Malian and Tuareg musicians. In a region racked by tribal and ethnic division, the Festival became a multi-cultural celebration of artistic exchange. That is, until a violent rebellion in early 2012.
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From 2001 to 2012, the Tuareg, a nomadic people in the north of Mali, hosted an annual music festival at Essakane, in the heart of the Saharan desert. The biggest music legends from West Africa and around the world played on this fabled stage â€“ Tinariwen, Bono, Ali and Vieux FarkaToure, Salif Keita, and Robert Plant, to name a few. Music executives and journalists made the three-day trek to this Showcase in the Sahara knowing they would find a treasure trove of talent in a country where complex guitar rhythms provide a non-stop soundtrack to everyday life and musicians are so revered they are de facto political leaders.
But, as Bono and Tinariwen were closing the final set this past January, a Tuareg-led rebellion was brewing. Years of political and social alienation combined with a massive rush of weapons from Libya and an ill-fated alliance with Islamic militants would lead to a devastating rebellion against the Malian state. The rebellion was so damaging that the under-equipped Malian military overthrew their democratically elected president, AmadouToumaniToure, and refused to fight until they could defend themselves.
Now, what began as an independence movement by ethnic Tuaregs has turned into a tug of war between the militant Islamic group, Ansar Dine, and the Tuareg rebel group, MNLA. Caught in the crossfire is the Festival in the Desert and the people of the north who once lived with total freedom in this peaceful, Sufi Islamic land. As Timbuktu resident and long-time Festival favorite, Khaira Arby, describes it,
They destroyed the churches, the bars, the hotels and monuments, the military camp of Timbuktu. There were women ready to give birth, and they lost their children, some lost their lives. Itâ€™s very painful. When I relive it I want to cry, I have tears in my eyes. They find women with their husbands, and they are raped in front of their husbands, in front of their children. Itâ€™s terrible.
As of June 2012, the people of Mali have been shaken to their core. To date, 200,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries. This bastion of democracy and peace in West Africa is now another victim to the destructive collision of poverty, guns, and, ethnic division. Essakane Film will take the audience on an emotional journey back to the first Festival in the Desert in 2001 that signaled a peace offering between the Tuaregs and the Malian government to the Festivalâ€™s heyday in 2007 and 2008 up through the chilling growth of Al Qaeda in the North of Mali all the way to the most recent Festival, just days before the full-scale rebellion was launched. As the film ends, we celebrate a bygone era when music seemed to offer a path to peace and economic development.
- Running time
- 74 and 59 minutes
- Kiley Kraskouskas ... Director
- Andrea Papitto ... Producer
- Leola Calzolai-Stewart ... Producer, Editor
- Prod. Co.
- Thinking Forward Media
- Years of Production
- Washinton, DC
- Prod. Partners
- Leola Calzolai-Stewart (Producer & Editor), Andrea Papitto (Producer)
- Release year
- CIMM Fest, Woods Hole, Rotterdam, ADIFF, World Music and Independent Film Festival, Warsaw, Kaunus, New York African Diaspora Film Fetival
- Best Music Documentary, World Music and Independent Film Festival
- Broadcast (Acq.)
- STEPs South Africa
- French, Tamashek, English
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