Mama Africa

Director: Mika Kaurismäki
Country: Germany, South Africa, Finland
Year: 2011
Running Time: 90 min.
Language: English and French


Mika Kaurismäki’s documentary about world-famous South African singer Miriam Makeba, who spent half a century traveling the world spreading her political message to fight racism, poverty and promote justice and peace, is a tribute to a woman who embodied the hopes and the voice of Africa as no other. Miriam Makeba (1932-2008) was an inspiration to musicians all over the world and a delight for international audiences. Nonetheless she remained true to her South African musical roots. Forced into early exile in 1959 as a result of her involvement in the documentary indictment of Apartheid Come Back, Africa, Harry Belafonte helped her to gain entry to the USA where in 1962 she appeared at John F. Kennedy’s birthday party among other venues, and scored her first international hit with ‘Pata Pata’. Finding herself in the sights of the FBI following her marriage to Black Panther activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968, she decided to settle in Guinea where she continued to fight the white Apartheid regime in her native land. Making use of rare documentary footage and a plethora of interviews, this film portrays the life of this exceptional artiste and her music; a performer who, for more that fifty years, never failed to created a stir wherever she went. The film includes testimonials from friends, relatives and colleagues – both young proponents of African music as well as those who have known and cherished Miriam Makeba since her earliest beginnings in the dance halls of Cape Town.

About the Director

Mika Kaurismäki

Biography: Mika Kaurismäki’s film The Liar (1980) was an overnight sensation, when first shown in Finland; it marked the beginning of the cinema of the Kaurismäki brothers and started a new era in the Finnish cinema. After high school Mika Kaurismäki worked as a painter of houses and apartments in Kuusankoski in the Southeastern part of Finland. In 1976, he decided he would become a film director. Mika Kaurismäki studied cinema in Munich, Germany, (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen) 1977-1981 and made his diplom film The Liar in 1980 in Finland. His younger brother Aki Kaurismäki, then a student of journalism, played the main role and also co-wrote the screenplay. After the success of The Liar, Mika Kaurismäki decided to stay in Finland and together with his brother and some friends he founded the production company Villealfa Filmproductions, that soon became a home of vital low- or no-budget film making; by the end of the 80’s it was the third biggest film production company of all times in Finland. The Villealfa film family consisted, besides the Kaurismäki brothers, of many colleagues and friends, including the actors Matti Pellonpää and Kari Väänänen and the cinematographer Timo Salminen. Aki Kaurismäki, who had worked as Mika’s assistant and as a screenwriter, began his career as a director, when Mika produced his first film in 1984. During the active Villealfa years, Mika co-founded the legendary Midnight Sun Film Festival (1986), the distribution company Senso Films (1987) and the Andorra cinemas in Helsinki.


Films Shown in AFF, Inc. Programs:
Mama Africa (2012).

Wilde Witwe (1979);
Saimaa-ilmiö [The Saimaa Gesture] (1981);
The Liar [Valehtelija] (1981);
Arvottomat [The Worthless] (1982);
Jackpot 2 (1982);
Klaani: Tarina Sammakoitten suvusta [The Clan – Tale of the Frogs] (1984);
Rosso (1985);
Helsinki Napoli All Night Long (1987);
Yötyö [Night Work] (1988);
Paperitähti [Paper Star] (1989);
Cha Cha Cha (1989);
Amazon (1990);
Zombie ja Kummitusjuna [Zombie and the Ghost Train] (1991);
The Last Border [Viimeisellä rajalla] (1993);
Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made (1994);
Condition Red (1995);
Danske piger viser alt [Danish Girls Show Everything] – Rhythm (1996);
Sambólico (1996);
I Love L.A. [L.A. Without a Map] (1998);
Highway Society (2000);
Moro no Brasil [Sound of Brazil] (2002);
Bem-Vindo a São Paulo [Welcome to São Paulo] – Manha De Domingo (2004);
Honey Baby (2004);
Brasileirinho – Grandes Encontros do Choro [The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho] (2005);
Kolme viisasta miestä [Three Wise Men] (2008);
Sonic Mirror [Hangtükör] (2007);
Malê Debalê (2009);
The Sound of Glarus (2009);
Haarautuvan rakkauden talo [The House of Branching Love] (2009);
Vesku from Finland (2010);
Veljekset [Brothers] (2011);
Mama Africa (2011);
Tie pohjoiseen [Road North] (2012);
Homecoming (2015);
The Girl King (2015).