Sand and the Stones
Two disparate musical video releases
Zerzura, touted as a “psychedelic western” and an “ethnographic road movie,” is Portland-based Christopher Kirkley’s rendition of the tale of a young man named Ahmoudou’s epic journey, filmed in the Sahara Desert with Tuareg dialogue and a guitar score played by its lead actor, Ahmoudou Madassane (who has also performed with the likes of Mdou Moctar and Les Filles de Illighadad).
The freewheeling central storyline begins in a time of drought with Ahmoudou trying to find his family’s errant herd of goats. Soon after he finds them, he’s heading out again—this time to find his wayward brother, who was last seen headed for the distant city of Agadez. When the young man arrives there, a relative tells him his brother has moved on and gone in search of the fabled city of Zerzura. Ahmoudou continues his pursuit.
The young man’s increasingly phantasmagorical travels include encounters with a crazed gold-seeker who lives in a hole; a couple of bizarre Djinns whose pronouncements are punctuated with demented laughter; a couple of pistol-packing bandits on a motorcycle; and a ghostly old man at a watering hole who gives the young man a dagger-like sword that turns out to be enchanted. Goats and camels drift through scenes as if possessed of enchantments of their own.
Bluesy electric guitar predominates on the soundtrack in the desert scenes. Kirkley’s spectacular videography is especially strong with the rich colors and luminosity of the main desert locations. And those images combine with the music for a powerful mixture of earthy grit and ecstatic vision.
Bill Wyman, the poker-faced bass player with the Rolling Stones over the bands’ first three decades, is the subject of Oliver Murray’s feature-length documentary portrait, The Quiet One. And the title notwithstanding, Murray’s film shows that while Wyman might be the least extroverted of the original band members, he’s somebody who’s always had a lot going on, artistically and otherwise.
Wyman, as we’re reminded here, is several years older than the other Stones and by the time he joined the band he’d already done a stint of military service, already had experience with bands of his own, and already begun a life-long pattern of wide-ranging interests.
He could do the Stones’ “bad boy” look as well as anyone, and even though he always seemed somewhat separate from the others, Murray’s portrait also shows the strength of his musical commitment to the band and its distinctive “sound.”
Overall, The Quiet One has more breadth than depth in its portraiture. But the diverse range of glimpses we get of Wyman here—musician, diarist, photographer, group historian, conflicted family man, tentative bohemian—puts an intriguingly human face on the deadpan icon seen on all those album covers.