New Yorkers are in for a profound experience from director E. Chai Vasarhelyi, whose feature documentary, Touba, which made its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last spring, will screen at DOC NYC, New York’s premier documentary festival, which returns for its 4th year, from November 14-21, to the IFC Center in Greenwich Village and Chelsea’s SVA Theatre.
With unprecedented access to one of the largest religious pilgrimages on the African continent, director Vasarhelyi reveals a face of Islam the world rarely ever gets to see in Touba.
Unexpectedly and beautifully shot on 16mm film, in a time when most documentaries are filmed with digital cameras, the observational film's vivid cinematography and soundtrack weave together a work of cinematic poetry, taking audiences inside the elusive Mouride Brotherhood, chronicling the Grand Magaal pilgrimage of 1 million Sufi Muslims to the holy city of Touba, Senegal.
They travel from all over the world to pay homage to the life and teachings of Cheikh Amadou Bamba, whose non-violent resistance to French colonial persecution in the late 19th century inspired a national movement: freedom of religious expression through pacifism.
Quite topical given recent events.
I'd say that, in addition to this documentary, there's also a scripted feature-length film in this story to be made - specifically, Cheikh Amadou Bamba's own individual, magnificent story; a man considered one of Senegal's greatest spiritual leaders ever, whose pacifist teachings are said to have become a major influence on contemporary Senegalese life and culture.
Every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Touba, to worship at the mosque and honor the memory of Sheikh Amadou Bamba.
Vasarhelyi (who also directed the acclaimed documentary Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love) tells that particular story with Touba.
And if you're in NYC next month, you should head see it!
There are other DOC NYC diaspora highlights this year, which I'll share in future individual posts.
In the meantime, watch the trailer embedded below for a glimpse of what to expect in Touba: