I admit it: I am a film geek. I even used to be a video store clerk and was three courses short of a film major.
I learned to enjoy film student/art house fare in my 20’s, largely because I wanted to be able to see those movies and then say to film snobs that they were overrated. (In reality, sometimes they were, sometimes they weren’t.) At the same time, I used to watch copious amounts of HBO as a teenager and young adult.
Bottom line: I have seen some underexposed movies (at least in the USA).
So, I’m going to do this irregularly appearing series of posts, called The Best Movies You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (In No Particular Order).
Hopefully, some of the lesser-known movies that I have liked will be of use to you, one way or another.
I’ll be trying to calibrate the obscurity of movies as I go along, so please feel free to use the Comments section to let me know if you’ve seen these movies or not. (You can even just say “seen” or “not seen.”)
Please also feel free to help me emerge out of my Rip Van Winkle-like cinematographic torpor by making your own suggestions in the Comments section of good films to see from the last 10 years.
So, here goes.
I’ll Sing For You (2001)
The simplest way to describe this movie would be that it is a documentary on Boubacar Traore. But that would also be too simplistic. For this film is so much more.
Yes, it’s about one of the most famous musicians in Mali— a country rich in amazing musicians— and his constantly changing fortunes. There are guest appearances by other Malian musicians, including that other towering Malian musical figure, Ali Farka Toure.
But the movie is told in a nonlinear fashion, almost as if peeling away the layers of an onion.
The film narrative’s twists and turns seem not so much borne from plot so much as they are about deciphering among all of Boubacar Traore’s internal contrasts and complexities.
And to some extent, about deciphering the complexity among the Malians in the film. For example, are those wistful, transported smiles, pitying smiles for a dinosaur, or derisive smiles for a fool who sings glowingly about a discredited concept of Mali sold to its people in its early, heady days of independence? It’s hard to know. Any and all of these possibilities might be true.
But the film is also about Mali, itself, too: one of the poorest countries in the world, rich in colors and peoples and cultures and languages, diverse in landscapes, its soundscape memorably complex and evocative, and full of memorable images that etch themselves into your brain.
This is such a thoughtful and well-made film: meditative yet very moving. It used to be on Netflix, but it can now be seen on YouTube. I highly recommend it.