Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love: Film Review

The musician makes a less than compelling interview subject, never managing to provide the sharp observations that would make his story of greater interest to casual fans.

Part concert film, part narrative, the film isn't fully successful on either level, coming across more like an overlong DVD extra than a fully stand-alone work.

A celebratory portrait of an African music superstar, "Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love" falls into the same trap of so many similarly themed music docs.

Part concert film, part narrative, it isn't fully successful on either level, coming across more like an overlong DVD extra than a fully stand-alone work. The singer's international fans -- and they are many -- surely will want to check this out, but crossover appeal seems limited.

Director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's debut feature does feature a narrative hook of sorts. It chronicles the story behind the Senegalese star's 2004 Grammy-winning album, "Egypt," which won international acclaim while stirring controversy and discontent in his native country. His local fans were less than pleased with the religious slant of the album, which dealt with the devout singer's Sufi Muslim faith and which they considered blasphemous.

The film includes the requisite biographical background material -- he inherited his musical leanings from his mother, who came from a long line of Griot storytellers --and heartwarming appearances by family members, including his stern father and frail, elderly grandmother.

It also accompanies N'Dour on an international tour showcasing the album, culminating in a Carnegie Hall appearance. Numerous concert clips well illustrate the reasons for the energetic singer's widespread popularity, though they are too truncated here to have the desired impact.

One of the film's best and most gorgeously photographed segments takes place at Senegal's Grand Mosque of Touba during an annual mass pilgrimage that attracts thousands of devotees.

But or all his onstage charisma, N'Dour makes a less than compelling interview subject, never managing to provide the sharp observations that would make his story of greater interest to casual fans.

Opens: Friday, June 12 (Shadow Distribution)
Production: Groovy Griot Film in association with 57th & Irving Prods
Director-producer: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Executive producers: Edward Tyler Nahem, Jennifer Millstone, Patrick Morris, Jack Turner, Kathryn Tucker, Mikos C. Vasarhelyi
Director of photography: Nick Doob, Jojo Pennebaker, Scott Duncan, Hugo Berkeley
Editors: Jonathan Oppenheim, Fernando Villena
Music: Martin Davich, James Newton Howard
Rated PG, 102 minutes

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