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A Review of I shot Bi Kidude

Andy Jones’ I Shot Bi Kidude is split in two by an examination of how Bi Kidude went missing after the appearance of her brother on national television.

Before that, the documentary is about the making of Jones’ debut feature film, As Old As My Tongue, which is also about the woman described at the time as the world’s oldest pop star.  Andy, starting from the very end of her life, flashes back to enthusiastically narrate how the Zanzibari star enchanted him, and in doing so enchants us who watch her.

These early scenes contain Bi Kidude singing, rehearsing, travelling the world with people around her, shaking hands, waving at her fans and interacting with young people with her cracking wit.

When one of them asks how old she is, she says he’s too young to be her grandson, but warns him that she would take him down if she has too, so he shouldn’t see her as a weak old woman. She grips his hand firmly to show him how strong she is. She’s laughing, singing, and alive in the atmosphere she has created after her own likeness: freedom.

“I drink, I smoke, I sing,” she says. She gives life to the trite expression free spirit, moving around the world like a genuine superstar who has managed to escape the solitude of fame. Then she disappears, presumably kidnapped by her nephew Baraka, who appeared on national television accusing her handlers of mismanaging her funds.

His accusation is particularly directed at Yusuf Mahmoud, the director of the Sauti Za Busara festival, who is miffed at Baraka’s statement and tries to describe him as an opportunistic family member. After interviewing many of Bi Kidude’s known associates, Andy Jones finally finds her in custody of Baraka, who then explains his reasons for taking her into hiding and how it was in good faith. Bi Kidude is shown frail, the jowls on her face enhanced, and lacking her characteristic verve.

Later, Bi Kidude makes a final appearance at the Busara festival where she sings feebly to an ecstatic crowd and does a shimmy and is clearly full of joy.

In watching Baraka, and Yusuf, and even Andy speak about her and for her, of what they think is good and bad for her, one feels a sadness at the suspension of the agency of a woman whose life had been about being free to sing.

In the end they all find an agreement that is able to allow her live the last of her days among the people she love. To her death, Bi Kidude was the undeniable star of her life’s story.

by Ifeoluwa Nihinlola

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