In an era when the war on Islam appears without end, a film like I Bring What I Love (2008) arrives right on time. This impressive documentary follows the production and release of Youssou N’Dour’s 2004 pop music album, Egypt. N’Dour is a Senegalese musician who has performed his uplifting brand of political pop rock for international audiences since the 1970s. Having carefully balanced his Sufi Islam faith with the business of music for over 30 years, N’Dour aimed to produce Egypt, his first straightforwardly religious album, as a special gift to the Senegalese people.
The project began creative production before September 11, 2001, and met with international resistance during its release and promotion in the years that followed—first, if superficially, by Western music audiences, and second, much more staunchly, by the Senegalese people. I Bring What I Love artfully documents a story of increasing tension between the Muslim and Western worlds and, ultimately, of the difference a small gesture can make. Egypt was awarded a Grammy award for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2005, a token of tolerance from the American people that resonated optimism in Senegal.
I Bring What I Love is a moving and colourful film, captivating audiences with its footage of life in West Africa and the touching intricacy of Sufi faith in the public realm. Director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, only 25 when this film was released, is masterful in balancing familiarity with discovery, effectively building understanding with her audience.
Geist sponsored the first screening of this film on May 23. You can catch I Bring What I Love at the DOXA festival, appearing for a second screening on Sunday, May 31.