Seven Songs for Malcom X by Akomfrah and Maty Bâ’s take

Saer Maty Bâ article on Seven Songs of Akomfrah takes Seven songs as a text where image, tableaux and sounds are the language analyzed. Maty Bâ line up the different tools and techniques used by Akomfrah to convey the viewers the story.

Maty Bâ juxtapose Seven songs rhythm to jazz and walk us through how Akomfrah apply Jazz swing rhythm “TIN KE TY-BOOM” to the film. As we watch the film we can sense the propulsive rhythm of Jazz Maty Bâ is referring to, with the scenes that mix archival footage, interviews and tableaux. The film’s sense of groove is produced by tensional use of mix of the above to create “a black documentary aesthetics.”

The visualized music rhythm is not the only tool analyzed by Maty Bâ, he also points at the political use of early black photography not as archival historic element but rather as counter-archival bringing alive portraits of iconic figures in black history, indexing a continuity and provoking feeling with the viewers. Maty Bâ shows particularly how Akomfrah uses early black “photographer’s whose portraits signified ‘uplift and achievement, [and] reflected the dreams and ambitions of their subjects (Bowser 1999:2).” Presenting it with use of techniques such as lighting, close-up images and blurriness…in order to represent black in a way that conveys ‘noble thought and feeling.’

The last tool and most important one, in my opinion, used by Akamofrah in Seven Songs is Paradzhanov’s cinematographic style of creating mise-en-scenes that give the film its poetic touch. The scenes with the use of black portrait photography style revive Malcom X’s life from childhood to death. Akamofrah successfully use Paradzhanov’s aesthetic’s ‘plastic gaze’ conceive memory as timeless, using image track and sound track in order to convey the message.

Tools of representation, early black Jazz, early black photography and the thinking and film art of Paradshanov, as well as the use of techniques such us blurriness, use of color and black and white, tableaux… gave the movie its artistic and poetic style. Maty Bâ analysis reveals the film’s depth and meaning which are difficult to read for non film expert viewer.

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