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03 avril 2007

Senegal's top singerdebuts in Amazing Grace movie

Senegalese mbalax superstar Youssou N'Dour has opened a door of acting for himself with a thrilling feature in the February 23, 2007 released biopic movie entitled 'Amazing Grace'. The movie is the inspiring story of how one man's passion and perseverance changed the world. Based on the true life story of William Wilberforce, a leader of the British abolition movement, the film chronicles his epic struggle to pass a law to end the slave trade in the late 18th century.

Ioan Gruffudd plays a dynamic William Wilberforce, who was born to a prosperous family. Following the death of his father, he became a wealthy young man. His wealth allowed him to fund many charitable projects. He became a member of Parliament and an Evangelical Christian and wrestled with his conscience to pursue humanitarian interests.

But his younger close friend William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch), the youngest-ever Prime Minister, suggested that he use his political power to push his policies to the government.

These two idealistic young men embraced the opposition's fight. Wilberforce seeks the advice of friend and mentor John Newton (Albert Finney), a former slave trader who wrote the song "Amazing Grace" and who turned to the Church in order to atone for his earlier life. Albert Finney is magnificient as the wise old man steering these younger men in their careers.

The terrific ensemble cast also stars Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner, the beautiful and headstrong young woman who shares Wilberforce's passion for reform and becomes his wife.

Michael Gambon is Lord Fix, a member of Parliament who joins Wilberforce's group. Rufus Sewell plays Thomas Clarkson, another ally in the reform, and Grammy winning Senegalese singer Yousou N'Dour is Olaudah Equiano, an African sent as a slave to the Colonies who bought his freedom and made his home in London where he became a leading figure in the fight to end the slavery of his fellow countrymen.

Aside from a noteworthy script that tells a meaningful story with exceptional acting by all, this film gives a good account of historical facts surrounding horror of the slave trade.

Meet Olaudah Equiano (played by Youssou N'Dour)

A central figure in the abolitionist movement in Great Britain, Olaudah Equiano (c.1745- 1797) wrote an eyewitness account of his life as a slave and of his work in the anti-slavery movement: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African. Though born in what is now Nigeria, Equiano was kidnapped and sold into slavery in childhood and taken as a slave to the New World. As a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker merchant, he eventually earned the price of his own freedom by careful trading and saving.

Equiano, like Wilberforce, stood for more than just abolition. Equiano was an African, a slave, a sailor, an Englishman, an abolitionist, a Christian, a writer. He used his many titles to show how slavery brutalizes society as a whole.

He wrote: "Is not the slave trade entirely a war with the heart of man? Such a tendency has the slave trade to debauch men's minds and harden them to every feeling of humanity! For I will not suppose that the dealers in slaves are born worse than other men…it corrupts the milk of human kindness and turns it into gall. Surely this traffic cannot be good, which spreads like a pestilence and taints what it touches!"


Grammy Winner Youssou N'dour is one of Africa's music pioneers. He has put African music on the world map over the past fifteen years. Born in Senegal, his mother taught him the music and songs of the Wolof people, to whom his family belongs. He began to perform with music and drama groups at an early age in his home town in Daker, making his first public performance with a modern band in 1973.

In 1975 he joined the Star Band, the house band at Dakar's most popular night club. With them, he experimented, melding Wolof music with western instruments, in a style called mbalax. In 1979 he formed his own band Etoile, revamping and renaming them Super Etoile de Dakar in 1982, and continuing to introduce new elements to his music, with lyrics from Wolof mythology and elements of contemporary life in Dakar.

In 1982 he released his first cassette for sale, and his popularity grew in Dakar as more cassettes were recorded. His albums Immigres and Nelson Mandela provided him with an international breakthrough and led to his collaboration with Peter Gabriel. Together they toured in 1987.

Youssou N'Dour now records for the world market, but holds onto his African roots by continuing to live in Senegal with his family, recording music specifically for his African audiences. Amazing Grace marks Youssou's film debut and he also collaborated with David Arnold to provide music for the film's soundtrack.

That is why we need to Echo our own story. We acknowledge the other African media partners in the struggle such as OBE TV, BEN TV, Passion TV, Eagle media, The Trumpet and the various radio stations that joined us to tell the African story.

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