Danny Glover on Bamako

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Interview by Michael Guillen

Actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. As an actor, his film credits range from the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise to smaller independent features, some of which Glover also produced. Most recently, he completed the critically acclaimed feature Dreamgirls directed by Bill Condon and Poor Boy's Game for director Clement Virgo, Shooter for director Antoine Fuqua and Be Kind, Rewind for director Michel Gondry.

At the same time, Glover has also gained respect for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts, with a particular emphasis on advocacy for economic justice and access to health care and education programs in the United States and Africa. For these efforts, Glover received a 2006 Directors Guild of America Honor.

In 2004, Glover co-founded Louverture Films, dedicated to the development and production of films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity. The New York-based company has a slate of progressive features and documentaries including the recently released Bamako.

As someone who is passionate about his community activism and philanthropic efforts, Glover is deeply involved with the Vanguard Public Foundation based in San Francisco. In 2001, he assumed the board chairmanship of TransAfrica Forum, the African-American lobbying organization on Africa and the Caribbean; and he actively serves on the board of the Algebra Project, a math empowerment program developed by civil rights veteran Bob Moses. Internationally, Glover has served as the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme from 1998 to 2004, focusing on issues of poverty, disease, and economic underdevelopment in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In recognition of his lifetime dedication to public service, Glover was honored with the 2003 NAACP Chairman's Award, and the 2006 Director's Guild of America Honors.

Glover and I sat down to talk during the screening of Bamako at the 2007 San Francisco International Film Festival.

 


Could you speak about the genesis of the Bamako project and how it dovetails with your personal interests?

I met Abderrahmane Sissako, the director of Bamako, at a film festival where we were both on the jury. I had seen an earlier film that he had directed - Waiting For Happiness (Heremakono, 2002) - and I was really moved by its form, his technique, his non-lyrical, almost non-traditional style of directing, and we talked about possible projects that he was doing. He described in very general terms his situation and how he grew up in Bamako. His father is Malian, his mother is Mauritanian. He said he'd lived in a courtyard where there were always 25 people in that courtyard; even today, he said, there were 25 people living there. These were men, women, children, who had been displaced, migrants; some were unemployed, some were workers, and some were not even from Mali, but this was a courtyard in which he grew up in. So he wanted to do something about these people [and the] various strands of community that coexisted. Then we talked about one of the primary issues on the continent and the Global South right now: the issue around the growing debt, the growing inequality, the growing disparity between the incomes of those who are rich and those who are poor in the Global South.

The genesis of [Bamako] was this: we began to talk. I told him almost immediately that I was on board. We came on board. We thought it was strategically important because, for more than 20 years, I'd wanted to attempt to develop a relationship with African filmmakers. Part of my own maturation as an artist came through watching African films, films from Latin America, films from all over the world. After I did Mandela in 1986, I'd been trying to find a way that I could orchestrate or involve myself to become engaged with filmmakers.

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