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June 30–July 6, 2017

Chicago Premiere

Mali Blues

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Film still: Mali Blues


"Nuanced meditations on the limbo of the diaspora and celebrations of Mali's ethnic plurality colour the fabric of this film, which vibrates with urgency and life"
  —Cinema Scope

The West African country of Mali is a birthplace of the blues, a musical tradition later carried by the transatlantic slave trade to America's cotton fields. Yet today, the music and musicians of Mali are in grave danger, as fundamentalist Islam and sharia law become more widespread, dance and secular music are prohibited, musical instruments are destroyed, and musicians are forced to flee their homeland.

The vibrant documentary Mali Blues follows four artists: Fatoumata "Fatou" Diawara is a rising star on the global pop scene (memorably featured in Abderrahmane Sissako's acclaimed drama Timbuktu); Bassekou Kouyaté is a celebrated ngoni player and traditional griot; Master Soumy is a young street rapper influenced by hip-hop and Ahmed Ag Kaedi is the leader of the Tuareg band Amanar and a guitar virtuoso. Each combines rich musical traditions with contemporary influences, using their music to stand up to extremism and inspire tolerance and peace. However, having fled Mali as a young woman to escape an arranged marriage, Diawara's personal relationship to the country is complicated. In Mali Blues, we follow her as she returns in 2015 to give her first home concert at the Festival of the Niger in the southern Mali city of Ségou.

For a small country, Mali contains a multiplicity of ethnicities and musical strains and the centuries-old ngoni string instrument is said to be a precursor of the banjo. For audiences discovering these talents for the first time, Mali Blues is a powerful testament to Mali's music and a tribute to the resilience of its people.

Directed by Lutz Gregor, Germany, 2016, 93 mins. In English, French, Bambara and Tamasheq with English subtitles.


  • Fri., June 30 at 6:30 & 8:30 pm
  • Sat., July 1 at 1:45, 3:45, 5:45 & 7:45 pm
  • Sun., July 2 at 1:45, 3:45 & 5:45 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., July 3–6 at 6:30 & 8:30 pm
Buy tickets


$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation