Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in It

Sunday, March 27 @ 2:00pm  |  Harvard Film Archive

2015 | Niger | 76 minutes
Directors: Christopher Kirkley
Screenwriters: Christopher Kirkley
Cast: Mdou Moctar, Rhaicha Ibrahim, Abdoulaye Souleymane

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“A revolutionary story of guitars, motorcycles, cell phones – and the music of a new generation.”

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai is billed as the West African remake of Purple Rain, the iconic 1984 rock-drama that catapulted Prince into superstardom. While the movie borrows from the universal underdog-turned-star themes that anchored Prince’s magnum opus, Akounak stands on its own as a compelling portrait of northern Niger’s burgeoning music scene and the incredible musicians at its center.

The movie follows virtuosic singer-songwriter Mdou Moctar as he fights to become the reigning guitar king of Agadez, the Saharan city that acts as a gorgeous backdrop for the story. Moctar is himself a real musician and fixture in the Niger music scene. As the film’s lead he is an enigmatic presence, a purple-robed guitar-toting hero riding across the desert on his violet motorcycle (a charming nod to Prince’s famous accoutrements).

Along the way Moctar faces resistance from his conservative father and local rival musicians attempting to thwart his rising star. This low-key drama plays out in an organic way, contributing to the gentle and good-natured spirit of the movie, a noted departure from the flamboyant melodrama of Purple Rain.

While Moctar and his music are enough to carry the film, director Christopher Kirkley offers stunning visuals and compelling sequences that make Akounak a memorable and unique cinematic experience. It’s worth noting that this is the first Tuareg-language fiction film. The title, a Tuareg phrase that roughly translates to “rain the color blue with a little red in it”, came about due to the fact there is no Tuareg word for the color purple.

Akounak is lovingly crafted and moving, a charming and groundbreaking story that will resonate with audiences around the world for its universal themes and spellbinding music.

– Shannen Ortale


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