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Abderrahmane Sissako: Africa's Visual Poet

“I think for me, cinema, or to make movies, or any act of creation is the research of yourself.”
—Abderrahmane Sissako

In his first stop on a US tour, Oscar-nominated director Abderrahmane Sissako comes to the Walker to present this short retrospective. His films are distinguished not only by great formal beauty and poetic imagery but also by humor, profound sympathy with human suffering, and an almost philosophical inquiry into relations between West Africa and the rest of the world.

Although officially labelled a Mauritanian director, Sissako made films in Russia, Tunisia, Angola, and Mali before returning to his mother’s homeland to shoot the masterful Waiting for Happiness (Mauritania, 2002). Since then, his work on films such as Bamako and Timbuktu has been centered on the Sahel region of Africa, but he remains a cosmopolitan practitioner of cinema as a world form. If he has commitments to a certain region and its people, he expresses them very differently than the engaged anticolonial nationalist filmmakers of the previous generation.

All of Sissako’s films show great respect for the difficulty of genuine communication across different cultural spaces and for the complexity of translation. Music is important to cinema in general, but Sissako has been especially brilliant in mobilizing the best of African great music to reinforce his visual imagery. Nearly all of his films also make spectacular use of Africa’s extraordinary creativity with textiles.

Through an annual academic partnership, all screenings are introduced by Sissako and followed by a conversation led by faculty members from the University of Minnesota, Macalester College, St. Olaf College, or Carleton College.