Salone News

Movie of two West African poets at German film festival

14 November 2017 at 04:41 | 2181 views

Now the memory of our lives brings a knife to my poems“
Syl Cheney-Coker, Poetry-Letter to a Tormented Playwright

„In the Beginning was not the Word / In the Word was the Beginning“
Niyi Osundare, Invocations of the word.

A simple but igneous idea how to shoot a documentary about two poets from two West African countries. Director Chivas DeVinck doesn’t seat the two friends Syl Cheyney-Coker from Sierra Leone and Niyi Osundare from Nigeria in front of their bookshelves at home, but puts them in a car and observes the two with his small video camera making conversation about what they – and the moviegoers – see out there. In the first part of the movie they are driving through Freetown, with Syl Cheyney-Coker riding shotgun. In the second half, with Niyi Osundare in the passenger seat, they drive across Lagos to Ikere-Ekiti in Nigeria, where Niyi used to run the local school library. How to talk about seeing things, what connects and separates images and words, that, of course, is the topic of all poetry. But at the beginning of every word is the experience of the world out there, of life experiences in the context of a story, of politics and of our society. This is also true here when Syl Cheyney-Coker – who lives in the USA today like his friend Niyi Osundare – returns to his parents’ house in Freetown, built in 1936 by his father, and proudly presents us a library of books he saved in the turmoil of the civil war in the 1990s. The life experiences of those two poets can be felt in every story they tell to the camera, in every scene of this dense and lively double portrait of poetically very different writers. Stories inside stories: Up to the present day we can sense the poetic power of the oral tradition in African poetry. A tradition to which Chivas DeVinck erects a visually and verbally impressive monument with his full-feature documentary essay.

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