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World Poetry Celebrates Producer Selwyn Jacob & The Ninth Floor!

Celebrating Black History Month!

Reprinted from TAN, The Afro News, http://www.theafronews.com/

A must see film and special interview with Selwyn Jacob!

The Ninth Floor, a powerful film of race relations and history, produced by the well known Selwyn Jacob; written and directed by Mina Shum will be shown at the Vancity Theatre, www.viff.org/ February 15-16 at 6:30 pm. Please go see the film!

The Ninth Floor was voted as one of the Top Ten Canadian film and is now showing across Canada.

This 81-minute documentary Ninth Floor revisits the infamous 1969 Sir George Williams Riot at Montreal’s Concordia University, a watershed moment in Canadian race relations. More than four decades later, Shum takes us back to one of the most contested episodes in the nation’s history and listens as protagonists in Trinidad and Montreal set the record straight and lay their burden down. Ninth Floor is written and directed by Mina Shum, produced by Selwyn Jacob and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s Pacific and Yukon Centre in Vancouver.”

I was honoured to be able to interview Selwyn Jacob, the producer of the Ninth Floor, who has worked with the National Film Board since 1997 at their Pacific and Yukon Studio in Vancouver and whose mission has been to educate the public through film. The Ninth Floor is one such example.

During the interview with Mr. Jacob, several important points emerged:

The long term connection of the producer to the film, which in some ways has been parallel to his life; the need to portray a balanced and unbiased depiction of the events of the occupation, the ability to make the film now using a Canadian perspective and to get the support needed that he would not be able to get in the 1970’s to make the film.

In addition, the Ninth Floor shows how the participants and the descendents were affected after the event in during the 1969 Sir George Williams Riot. They are still carrying the burden of their experiences of the event. One other element raised in the film was that hateful words do great damage and remain in the mind, long after the event has passed.

In addition, Selwyn Jacob had the following suggestions on improving racial relations:

*Do not prejudge people based on dress or accent. * Be tolerant of others. * Be self reflective in your interactions. *Use the 9th Floor as a cautionary tale.

I would like to thank Selwyn Jacob for his wisdom and insights during the interview.

Mr. Jacob says: “I’ve wanted to make Ninth Floor ever since I became a filmmaker, some forty years ago. I’ve always felt a direct connection to the events at Sir George Williams. I, too, immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean in the late 1960s, and I could easily have ended up in Montreal alongside those students. And with the passage of time, I’ve come to realize how the story resonates for all Canadians.”  Selwyn Jacobs, Producer of the 9th Floor.

Selwyn Jacob has produced close to 50 NFB films such as Crazywater, directed by the Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen; Hue: A Matter of Colour, a co-production withSepia Films, directed by Vic Sarin; Mighty Jerome, written and directed by Charles Officer; and the digital interactive project Circa 1948, by Vancouver artist Stan Douglas. Released in 2010, Mighty Jerome addresses issues of race and nationalism while paying tribute to Harry Jerome.  One of the His recent credits include Ninth Floor, a feature documentary about the infamous Sir George Williams Riot of 1969. Written and directed by the acclaimed director Mina Shum, it’s a story that Jacob has wanted to bring to the screen for decades.

Sources: The National Film Board, the Afro News and the interview with Mr. Jacob.

World Poetry Proudly Presents “Griot”, an interview with the Stars and Director on the Radio!


Ariadne’s note: The World Poetry Cafe Radio Show is honoured to interview the stars of Griot on Tuesday, September 18th, 9-10 pm,on CFRO, 100.5 FM by phone from New York and Montreal. To hear this wonderful interview CLICK HERE!

The film and a one time only special concert is coming to  the Vancouver International Film Festival. The concert is presented in association with : Griot Senegalease kora and western trumpet coming to Vancouver to a special live concert performance on Friday, Sept. 28, 9:15 pm start at the Vogue Theatre. World Poetry has one pair of tickets for the concert. The first one who sends an email to ariadnes@uniserve.com will receive two tickets to this special event. On this site we have broken a record-2,065 visitors for Tuesday! Thank you Yaman for the promotion.

Griot http://www.youtube.com/vgoetze for a preview.

Special Presentations

(France, 2012, 82 mins, HDCAM)

Mandinka, French, English, Wolof

World Director:Volker Goetze

PROD Volker Goetze CAM Sanne Kurz EDS Victor Kanefsky, Volker Goetze MUS Ablaye Cissoko, Volker Goetze PROD CO Weitblick Media

 Vancouver, BC,Sep 27 06:30 pm Empire Granville 7 Cinemas Theatre #2
Sep 30 01:30 pm
Vancity Theatre @ VIFC

Presented in association with:
Griot Senegalese kora and western trumpet … are coming Vancouver for a special live concert performance on Friday Sept. 28, 9:15pm start, at the Vogue!

Griot, 82 minutes Senegal, USA, France /Germany.

This beautiful film has an impressive list of filmmakers including:
Volker Goetze. Producer/Director. Award-winning musician, composer and producer.

Victor Kanefsky. Co-Director/Editor Sam Pollard. Co-Producer/Post-production Supervisor. Multiple Emmy Award winning, Peabody Award winning and Academy Award Nominated producer and editor, Leslie Mulkey (a.k.a. Holcomb Reed)Sanne Kurz and Joshue Ott.

“A film that provides a visual feast full of beautiful images and lovely music as well as a human interest story showing the changes between the past and the present and the possibility of a combined future. The Griots are the keepers of oral wisdom, history and ancient traditions. Through the joint mediums of exquisite images and music, the film explores the changes that are now happening in the life of the West African Senegalese Griot song writer Ablaye Cissoko and the challenges facing this honoured tradition. He leads us through the necessity of maintaining the  respect and honoured traditions of the past while at the same time, engaging the international community and world music. The Griot way of life is in good hands with Ablaye Cissoko.

A short summary for the film:

GRIOT – Synopsis By tradition, griots are the living repositories of West Africaʼs oral epics — histories that are crucial for the preservation of West African social structures. Griot, a documentary by Volker Goetze, uncovers the beauty of West Africanʼs traditional past and discovers that some revolutionary changes may be afoot — changes that could alter the cultural landscape forever.

They fought Islam and won. They fought European colonialism and won. Now, after a thousand years of religious, political and cultural onslaughts, a monolith of West African culture is showing signs of change in the form of a radical new individualism. Kora virtuoso Ablaye Cissoko is our ticket inside the mysterious world of the griot. Griots today are at a crossroads between the traditional, which is increasingly irrelevant, and … something new. What could not be done in a thousand years through the competing ideals of Islam and occidental philosophies is being done by a fundamental reordering of economic opportunity.

The film captures this moment of historic change in the griot tradition, caught now, as it is, between the imperative to maintain the social structures of the past and the need to enter into a dialogue with the international comment.


Multimedia Artist Volker Goetze is a German-born, New York-based trumpeter, composer, and filmmaker. He performed and presented his work at leading venues and international festivals such as the Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Merkin Hall, West German Radio Station (WDR) in Cologne, Gasteig Munich, Sunset Paris, Jazzhouse Copenhagen, World festival of Sacred Music Los Angeles and the Opera Festival in Munich. His work bridges cultures creating contemporary cross-cultural dialogs across multiple disciplines incorporating cutting edge technology. His recent compositions don’t fit in any singular category as they derive from folklore music, rock, jazz, contemporary music, classical as well as baroque music. In the recent years he has been investigating the oral culture and story telling of West Africa and their influences on Jazz and Black Culture in America. GRIOT, a feature documentary on the oral music tradition in West Africa, is Volker Goetze’s debut as a film director and has since developed into a multi media performance symphony documentary.


The film is neither a traditional western documentary, as it does not settle for a conceptual understanding of our subject; nor is it simply a performance piece, as it does not settle for collecting powerful songs. This piece celebrates the art of the Griot – the art of the praise-singer and musical healer – by expanding the narrative through an interaction of poetry, music, song, stunning visuals and earthy sounds. Our stylistic approach taps into the very essence of the healing work of Ablaye Cissoko as a musician and activist in his home country Senegal.  The approach is consonant with the life and history of Ablaye Cissoko himself. He descends from Kimitang Cissoko, the inventor of the kora, the African lute-harp. A genie directed him to build the first kora and the beautiful music he created with it lifted his people from their despair. Ablaye Cissokos music similarly has the power to heal broken people. His songs touch hearts and already reach far beyond the borders of West Africa.


Griot , a must see film.

Griot, A Must See Film!  By TAN, the Afro News reporter Ariadne Sawyer, MA. ariadnes@uniserve.com

 To find dates, locations and ticket information go to www.viff.org

A fascinating interview with Director and Producer, Volker Goetze.Due to time constraints, the interview was by e-Mail. My questions are in bold and italic. All that remains is to see the film and send your comments in!

 To find dates, locations and ticket information go to www.viff.org

A fascinating interview with Director and Producer, Volker Goetze .Due to time constraints, the interview was by e-Mail. My questions are in bold and italic. All that remains is to see the film and send your comments in!

1)       What message/messages do you want to give to the audience?

The film is a window into the world of a Senegalese Mandinka Jeli (Griot) and musician Ablaye Cissoko.  Through the film, Ablaye acts as a storyteller and mediator. His stories are very different from the ones we normally hear in the western world. They address lost and often forgotten values of family, friendship, respect and compassion. Ablaye is descended from generations of Cissokos and they are famous for inventing the African harp otherwise known as the kora.

2)       Why should people go see the film?

Go see the film to get a glimpse of the oral tradition and living history of West Africa, get uplifted by Ablaye’s music, understand what the youth in Senegal are going through; and gain a better understanding of the connection of oral memory to Black Culture.

3)       You have high profile and experienced film partners. Why did they join your team?

Working with Ablaye Cissoko, I discovered and learned more about the Griot culture and oral history of West Africa. I wanted to share this discovery and the idea of a documentary was born. In 2007, I read a book called “Documentary Storytelling” by Sheila Curran Banard, which introduced me to Sam Pollard, known for his many collaborations with Spike Lee. It mentioned that Spike Lee often just left the footage to Mr. Pollard and let him work out the story creatively, by looking at the footage itself. It was right then and there that I realized that Sam Pollard would be an excellent collaborator for this film. I thought he might be interested because of the nature of the topic. But it was not until two years later that a colleague Bob Mover, who worked with Charles Mingus and Chet Baker, mentioned to me that he actually knew someone who could connect me with Sam Pollard. After the first meeting with Sam and his former mentor Victor Kanefsky, I found out that Sam is a huge fan of jazz-legend and pianist Randy Weston, who we interviewed for the film. Randy Weston has lived in Africa for fifteen years and Ablaye Cissoko and Randy Weston actually met in 2007 at the Saint-Louis-Jazz-Festival in Senegal. Sam Pollard mentioned that if I set up a meeting with Randy Weston that he would be on board. So I set up a meeting and Sam Pollard joined the team together with Victor Kanefsky. Sam and Victor proved to be invaluable additions to the team. I also have to mention Sanne Kurz– a fantastic cinematographer from Munich. She was hard working and provided the fantastic images. I have so many people to thank including writer Leslie Mulkey, historian Prof. Mamadou Diouf, and editor Marie Planqouis. Documentary films are made by the labor of love and it was a dream come true to work with Sam Pollard and Victor Kanefsky.

4)       What is the most important theme of the film? Humanity.

5)       The visuals and the music are stunning. How did the producers achieve this?

Again it was the craft of cinematographer Sanne Kurz. She is a school colleague of a close friend of mine who has won prizes for best cinematography in Europe. She loves films and she prefers to work on films with artistic merit turning down commercial offers. We worked as a two person team: she did the filming and I did the sound as I had experience in mobile recording. When Ablaye and I listened to our first recordings in 2007, which can be heard on the CD “Sira” (Motéma Music), we could not believe it – it felt that someone else is playing, we were actually shocked. So I was never worried about the music, I just hoped that the film would be strong enough to carry the music.

What do you want to say about the film?

As with my music I don’t feel comfortable talking about my work. Go see it once, twice… I hope that we achieved a complex and rich film, which will speak to the audience differently each time they watch it. I hope it will evoke deep emotions, heal and if it touches a fraction of the experience of a living piece similar to the oral memory of West Africa all goals would be achieved.

What would Ablaye Cissoko want to tell the readers of the TAN the Afro News?

I just reached him and this is what he said:

“All I as a griot do is sing and play. Whenever I get a chance to perform- I feel honored and the transmission of the Griot culture is done. That is my role.”

I would like to thank Volker Goetze , Ablaye  Cissoko, The Vancouver International Film Festival, Helen Yaki and above all our esteemed publisher and editor Honore Gbedze. Thank you for doing so much in such a short time period. It was a real team effort.

* Photos and text printed with permission from TAN, The Afro News, VIFF, Ablaye Cissoko and Volker Goetze.