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Malick Sidibé: Portrait of the Artist as a Portraitist

A Film by Susan Vogel
Produced in Association with the Musée National du Mali

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Malick Sidibé started out as a local photographer in Bamako, Mali. After independence in 1960, his snazzy studio portraits and party shots captured the buoyant optimism of a new nation. Today they are recognized internationally as masterpieces, and Malick is world famous.

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This short but sweet film looks at the work of the renowned African artist whose photographs have documented Malian society over a forty-year period. In an interview, this self-taught photographer, now seventy years old, describes how his photography answered a desire for immortality, discusses his views of photography as a "social art form" and explains his documentary and portrait techniques, including methods of putting his subjects at ease and "giving life to the image." Another scene gives us a rare look at the photographer at work his studio, placing his subjects in stylized poses while he quickly deploys humor and flattery in the service of his art.

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MALICK SIDIBE showcases many of his best known photos, especially those documenting Malian youth culture in the Sixties, including portraits of youngsters posing in the era's 'hip' fashions and his energetic images of Malian teenagers enjoying the latest dance crazes.

This short film will serve as a useful introduction to a photographer whose body of work, writes Index Magazine, is "characterized by acute observation, perfect timing and an infinite love for its subjects."

"In less than ten minutes and through impeccable editing, Vogel has successfully grasped the essence of Sidibe's photographic output and the charming of meeting with an artist so attentive to others. Her testimony to this photographer's personality, skill, and artistry is one for posterity, much like Sidibe's photographs themselves." Erike Nimis, H-AFRARTS

"Brilliant! Malick Sidibé, the renowned African photographer, is outgoing and cheerful... he describes his life and work, allowing the viewer to grasp what it means to take portraits of people in and around Bamako, the vibrant capital of Mali. Evocative and deeply felt, the film transports us into the world of Sidibé, and helps us appreciate this artist and more generally photography in Africa. It is a joy to watch and perfect for teaching African art and photography." —Christraud M. Geary, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

"A timely and highly welcome portrait of Malick Sidibé, one of the most outstanding African photographers, the internationally recognized head of photography in Mali and laureate of the 2004 Hasselblad Award. The film combines interview sequences with everyday observations and powerful black & white photographs by the artist. "I wanted to give life to the image," Malick says in his inimitably gentle manner. We hear him talk eloquently about the golden days of studio portraiture in Bamako and remember his clientele of diverse social and religious backgrounds. Susan Vogel's film is highly recommended for all interested in Malian visual culture and the history of photography!" Professor Tobias Wendl, University of Bayreuth, Author of Snap me One: Studiofotografen in Afrika

"Well-constructed and intelligently conceptualized… every shot has meaning, and its particular place in the montage; nothing seems redundant. Through visual language and sound alone, the film shows with brilliant economy what it intends to tell but more than that what the viewer is enabled to sense. Something of Sidibé's spirit and wisdom is captured in his photographs and, certainly, is also captured by this film. A brilliant and exemplary documentary." Leonardo Reviews

"Recommended! Charming!" Educational Media Reviews Online

Contact Toronto Photography Film Festival
African Studies Association Film Festival

8 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2006
Copyright: 2006

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Africa, African Studies, Anthropology (Cultural), Art, Cultural Anthropology, Fine Art, Mali, Photography

Watch the trailer:

The Films of Susan Vogel

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