In Xaraasi Xaane – Crossing Voices, directors Bouba Touré and Raphaël Grisey tell a story of ancestral bonds and tenacity. After decades of conflict, the creation of Soumankidi Coura, a successful farming collective in Mali, shows the strength of community — especially one that is connected though generations.
With the collaboration of still photography and archival footage, Xaraasi Xaane – Crossing Voices truly follows the “show don’t tell” imperative. The photography confirms the sound and the footage confirms the photography. The voice-over is the thread stringing all three elements together. All of these working together makes for a digestible and varied storytelling sequence.
The subject matter of this film is searing and triumphant. Raw in its depiction of racism in France, migrant workers find that the systemic racism there blocks them from equal pay and humane living conditions. One person in the film shares how it would have been better to be in the United States — at least there, the problem of racism is clear. In France, it is like a sting he is never expecting.
In one poignant scene in the film, the camera pans over the faces of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and other leaders. The narrator says, “One day, Africa will wake up and say, 'Enough. We can’t live without fighting back.'” The phrase, “The alarm must ring,” reverbs, striking a sobering chord that reminds the audience that the people of African descent have suffered too much and for too long.
Despite the oppression they face, the migrants in the film show resilience. For example, a drought back home in Mali did not stop them from returning to help their families, even though agriculture cooperative they formed was not without its challenges. Still, it was clear that the union was working. The film flashes forward to a series of tight shots of farming — the picking of plants and water irrigation. These clips show how women and men work together to make organic farming possible. Everyone has a part in this cooperative. Migrating to another place is unnecessary, because they can provide for themselves from generation to generation.
The film ends where it began: the Senegal River. In a similar shot as the establishing scene, the narrator tells the story of how he almost drowned in the river when he was a baby. A woman saves him, and she is promised his first harvest when he is older. In full circle motion, the audience learns that he was given a name after the river.
This scene illustrates the central message of the film: members of Soumankidi Coura look out for and provide for each other, even during hardship. This bond is why they were able to create a successful community even after decades of conflict.