DER Documentary

Funeral Festivities

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From the Masters of the Balafon series
by Hugo Zemp
color, 80 min (plus 25 min of extras), 2001

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Among the Senufo people of northern Côte d'Ivoire, the balafon (xylophone with calabash resonators) is an emblematic musical instrument. This film shows balafon orchestras playing in five villages during the two principal days of funeral festivities, celebrations that include the most important rites, ceremonies and rejoicings in the life of the Senufo. During dialogues with Sikaman, a young musician who acted as research assistant for this film series, the master balafonist Nahoua gives the key to understanding how this marvelous music comes into being, and what it means.

This DVD includes the extra features:
Blacksmith's Music and Masks (10 min)
"La Clé" Balafon Music (15 min)

“The images shown in this film are unforgettable! It is rare for an expert in hearing and aural perception to employ visualization and images with such mastery. Hugo Zemp, you are a phenomenon! From being a marvelous sound engineer as an ethnomusicologist you have become one of our best cameramen.” — Jean Rouch, CNRS, Musée de l'Homme, Paris, 2002
“A unique cognitive and social document of a little known West African xylophone tradition; a glimpse of the musical mind of Senufo master xylophone player Nahoua Silué, and testimony to master ethnomusicological filmmaker Hugo Zemp's incomparable approach and technique!” — Gerhard Kubik, University of Vienna, 2002
“A magnificent musical tradition superbly filmed in its proper context, offered in all its beauty and complexity. A visual and auditory experience, an opportunity for understanding without equivalent. A truly unique discovery.” — Gilbert Rouget, CNRS Musée de l'Homme, 2002

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Bartók Prize, 20th Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Paris, 2001
Prize for the best film on the arts, 15th Pärnu Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, Estonia, 2001

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Other Films in the Masters of the Balafon series
The Joy of Youth
The Wood and the Calabash
Friend, Well Come!

Related Films
Siaka, An African Musician
An African Brass Band
In the Shadow of the Sun
The Spirit World of Tidikawa
Funeral Season

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts