Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Review)
Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
aka Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It
Written by Christopher Kirkley and Jerome Fino
Directed by Christopher Kirkley
An African version of Purple Rain? Of course I’ve got to watch it! It helps that Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It) turns out to be an entertaining film that is pretty unique in character, though be warned it isn’t for everyone. Akounak was the dream of Christopher Kirkley, an ex-pat from Seattle who ended up in West Africa and had a dream of exporting the sounds of the region’s unique music stylings. He has done so with a record label and has become a manager of talent, so the next logical step would be to enter the movie world, and what better choice than an unofficial remake of Purple Rain?
First, some problems. Christopher Kirkley doesn’t speak Tuareg, the local language the film was shot in. But he does speak French, and so does star Mdou Moctar, so Kirkley would explain to Moctar what each scene was supposed to be about and how it was set up, then Moctar would explain that to the other actors, and they would work through the scene. Later, Kirkley had to have the whole film translated, which ended up with a few scenes not fitting in correctly. Some of this is covered up with creative editing, some of it is easy to dismiss as a first-time filmmaker just learning the ropes, and some of it makes you go “Guh?”. As an added bonus, Tuareg doesn’t have a word for “purple”, hence the long-winded title of Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai – Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It, which is just to perfect to not keep as a title, Kirkley obviously agreeing with that sentiment.
Overall, the effect is quite charming, and anyone familiar with African cinema will be right at home, there are multiple points where the setup and composition is nearly identical to the Nigerian and Ghanaian films I’ve watched, with a lot of talking around that seems loosely connected to the story at best. The Purple Rain plot being grafted on keeps the movie going forward and not mired in those talking scenes, which means we get plenty of rocking musical performances and plot drama.
Akounak follows the basic beats of Purple Rain, but doubles down on the classic heroic journey influences. Mdou Moctar comes to town riding a purple motorcycle, dressed in purple clothes and wearing a covering on his face. He arrives at a wedding and convinces the band to let him jam out a song, which turns out to be a big hit. The song gets shared phone to phone via bluetooth (which is how songs are shared between people in real life in that region, like a peer-to-peer viral network), earning him local respect and the enmity of the current local music bigwig, Kader (played by real life Mdou Moctar rival Kader Tanoutanoute, though he is not nearly a rival to the degree as portrayed in the film!)
Kader deals with the new threat to his position by trying to get Moctar to accept a lower position in his band, and then outright stealing his songs. Moctar also gets a girlfriend, Rhaicha (Rhaicha Ibrahim), though the stresses from his rivalry and his home life put a strain on their relationship, and she ends up abandoning him. Moctar’s father (played by his real life brother, Abdoulaye Souleymane) forbids guitar playing, as he things musicians all turn into drug addicts and thieves. This is capstoned by a scene where he burns Mdou Moctar’s guitar. An emotional talk with his mother reveals that his father was once a musician himself, but all his friends turned to drugs and crime so he gave up the life. Mdou finds his father’s songs and uses them as inspiration for his own music in a battle of the bands for local supremacy.
Akounak is definitely an experience. You will be hard pressed to find a film with a similar vibe, and that alone is a reason to check it out. There is enough going on that I was entertained, and the music during the jam sequences will keep you rocking even if you aren’t a fan of the drama. The acting is surprisingly decent despite the language barrier, and there is a great performance from last minute replacement Fatimata Falo as Mdou’s mother. She was actually someone’s neighbor they brought in right before they started filming and she nailed the role despite no acting experience at all. Akounak is filled with magical moments like that that just make the film come together into a realized form, becoming a fascinating new entry in the tapestry of global pop cinema.
Rated 8/10 (tea has a substantial plot in the movie, more tea intrigue, lone rider, cymbolic, cool dude, cool rival, cool dude, cool dudette)
Please give feedback below!