Genesis

on May 27, 2005 by Kim Williamson
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The second offering from the filmmakers behind "Microcosmos," "Genesis" is the story of all that is as told by an African griot (the Burkina Faso-born Sotigui Kouyate). Griots, per the word's wiki, are "wordsmiths of West Africa who use poetry, proverbs, and rhythm to teach villagers about their history." On the one hand, a contemporary western-science look inside the universe's evolution and workings coming from the mouth of someone who culturally seems a world and an eon away adds an enthralling touch; on the other hand, it's a bit of stunt casting.

In this rapturously photographed effort, the real "stars of the show" are the likes of: the growth of vitamin C crystals; the river of life of spermatozoids; a bullfrog coming out of the mud; a confrontation of sea iguanas; and so on. The images in their visual way match the poetry of the griot's language, and it's obvious much deep contemplation has gone into the film's narrative development; one feels as carried away as is the griot, who at movie's end exeunts in canoe down a jungle river.

If there's a flaw, it's not so much that the whole bears an air of self-satisfaction so much as that the telling carries a potential fleetingness; the solemn assertions are so much a product of second-half 20th-century science that one can imagine viewers several centuries hence smiling at our intellectual quaintness, much as we would today smile at the similarly ardent philosophies of 17th-century naturalists. Starring Sotigui Kouyate. Directed and written by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou. Produced by Alain Sarde. A ThinkFilm release. Documentary. French-language; subtitled. Rated G. Running time: 80 min

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