Thursday, 5 January 2012

Herdsmen of the Sun

I'm not a film buff, but Werner Herzog is the one director who has made a deep impression on me as a director. When I was in my 20s, a cinema near where we lived in North London often screened his films. My favourite from back then was The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. It's still my favourite film.

Recently, my daughter sent me a link to another film by Herzog - Herdsmen of the Sun. I'd not seen it before. Made in 1989, it's a documentary about the Wodaabe tribe, who live along the Southern edge of the Sahara. It focusses on their Gerewol celebration, during which young men take part in a beauty contest, each hoping to attract the attention of one of the young women. Near the beginning we hear Gounod's "Ave Maria" recorded in 1901 by the last castrato to sing in the Vatican. I found the whole thing deeply moving. It's nearly 50 minutes long but if like most people you haven't got that long to spare, take a look at the first few minutes. You might want to come back and watch it all...

5 comments:

Totalfeckineejit said...

WE could do with a few more being castrato'd in The Vatican.

patteran said...

There's something about the cracked purity of the singing that fits perfectly with the strange, touching posturing of the made-up men. Remarkable.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I have seen film of this particular tribe before - they are amazing.

Incidentally this afternoon I have given my old Singer hand sewing machine to a group who are taking tools of all kinds to a remote island somewhere in Tanzania - I feel rather good about that.

Kat Mortensen said...

It reminds me of the way that birds' plumage becomes more vibrant when they are attempting to attract a mate.
I won't deny that the made up faces are a bit on the garish side, but the earnestness in their faces gives it a real sweetness too.

I haven't seen much of Herzog's work, but I do consider his "Nosferatu" one of the great "Dracula" interpretations.

Shadows and Light said...

I remember this piece of Herzog well, one of his first documentaries I think. It would have been screened about the same time as Peter Brook's monster version of the Mahabharata - in the days before Channel 4 lost it's way.
Herzog had a profound influence on me & still does & I would trek across London to watch his movies. Surely the cinema you've in mind Dominic is the Screen on the Hill or perhaps Camden Plaza?
Another Herzog docu that's a must is Little Dieter Needs to Fly.