Within the first two minutes of this film I was already teary eyed. Why, you might ask? Director Chai Vasarhelyi (A Normal Life) definitely knows how to tug at your heartstrings with the subjects she presents in her documentaries. Making no bones about it the woman wants you to care about what she has come to care about. The big guns are brought out right away and she does not put them away for the entire 102 minutes of the documentary.
Youssou N'Dour is Africa's best know musician. He has used his success and music to become a vehicle for change. N'Dour has always been know for his velvety voice and his ability to bring people of all different backgrounds, colours and cultures together through his music. Now he goes out on a limb, career-wise and personally, by creating an album filled with spiritual music about Islam.
We follow N'Dour for two years from the recording of his album to its release, subsequent world tour and then finally to the point where he finally wins a Grammy Award. He initially releases his album "Egypt" hoping that his album that shows a more tolerant Islam will bring some understanding to his religion, but it is rejected almost everywhere but the West. Most painfully for N'Dour is that the album is panned in his native Senegal and several other Muslim countries. He is denounced as blasphemous. Instead of giving up hope he continues to forge ahead.
This is an artist who uses his music to unite and educate. With his incredible charisma and voice he goes a long way towards accomplishing just that.
Yes, the best part of the documentary is the music. That is not debatable. But what is debatable is whether the documentary portion has merit. Director Vasarhelyi keeps it quite vague when it comes to shedding light on the Islamic culture and even on the man himself. That does not stop the documentary from being moving and inspiring. It is a picture of how one person can make a difference.