Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
AKA Rain the Color of Blue with a little Red in it
Dir. Christopher Kirkley
Niger/United States
2015, 75 min
In Tamashek with English subtitles


In 1979 Roger Corman wanted a disco movie, so his staff made sure that he was the only one on the production with a script that said “Disco High School.” Two weeks before shooting, director Allan Arkush broke it to his producer that everyone else’s scripts were called Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and the Ramones were a punk band. “Why can’t they be disco,” Corman asked. Arkush responded, “You can’t blow up a high school to disco music.”

Since at least 1956, when Bill Haley & His Comets starred in Rock Around the Clock, the musician-centered rock drama has been one of the most versatile vehicles for pop proselytizing. There have been many tweaks to the Rock Around the Clock formula—musical genres, locales, vérité aesthetics—and Prince‘s Purple Rain might be called the capitalist variant. In 1975 the New York Time’s Vincent Canby famously asked, “What is Jaws but a big-budget Roger Corman film,” and by 1984 Corman’s operation had effectively been steamrolled by appropriation of exploitation formula’s amid Hollywood’s economies of scale. Purple Rain is also a big-budget Corman film, but despite its unabashedly generic construction it towers above other rock dramas as a true watershed: the genre’s first steroidally capitalistic Hollywood blockbuster.

So, it’s at least patently funny that the first fiction feature ever produced in the Tuareg language, which is spoken by about 1 million people in parts of Algeria, Libya, Mali, and Niger, is nominally a remake of Purple Rain. Or, sort of: there is no Tuareg word for “purple,” so Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai actually translates to “rain the color of blue with a little red in it.” Constructed around the personality of naturally charismatic lead Mduo Moctar and set in the world of Tuareg guitar music in Agadez, Niger—most internationally recognized for the work of Bombino (who is, come to think of it, signed to a subsidiary of Prince’s former record label)—Akounak gushes with pure, earnest enthusiasm for its sweded source material. Shrouded in mystery and kicking up desert sands on his purple motorcycle while riding between home recording studios and guitar parties, Moctar is a brilliant and even more likable analog to Prince’s “The Kid.” Whereas Purple Rain is premised about calculated obfuscation of ostensibly autobiographical detail—I learned as much about Minneapolis and Prince from Purple Rain as I did string theory—Akounak‘s filmmakers take a Rouch-lite approach to their collaboratively produced riff on social mores, religiosity, and third world distribution models.

Make no mistake: Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai works as blissful, effervescent entertainment, and it’s beautifully shot and edited like a fiction film even as its DIY production and documentary ethos shine through. Like the conglomerate clockwork strategies underpinning Purple Rain, it will make you a believer and a fan. —Jon Dieringer (Screen Slate)