Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
Zerzura is feature length ethno-western, a surreal Tuareg folktale about the search for a mythical oasis in the Sahara
Zerzura is feature length ethno-western, a surreal Tuareg folktale about the search for a mythical oasis in the Sahara
276 backers pledged $11,849 to help bring this project to life.

About

"Zerzura" the Saharan Acid Western project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

$11,849

276

“Zerzura” is a feature length film shot in the Sahara desert. Mixing folktales and documentary, the film follows a young man from in Niger who leaves home in search of an enchanted oasis. His journey leads him into a surreal vision of the Sahara, crossing paths with djinn, bandits, gold seekers, and migrants. A folktale transposed onto an acid western, the film is a collaborative fiction, written and developed with a Tuareg cast, and shot in and around Agadez, Niger.

Over the past decades, Agadez has reestablished itself as a hub of movement across the desert. Migrants throughout the continent stop here on their perilous trek North, bound for mythic cities in Europe. Tales of gold in the desert abound, and men sell their houses for gold detectors. Young Tuareg leave home to seek their fortune in the fractured Libyan state. As people leave, stories return, becoming folklore, apocryphal and wildly exaggerated versions of truth.

In the style of “ethnofiction” proposed by Jean Rouch, "Zerzura" is a window into Saharan dreams and imagination, a folktale about the universal drive to search for something that we know is likely false and unwavering faith in the face of realism. In an American-Tuareg production, a script written and developed collaboratively and largely improvised performances, the film plays with mutual exoticism to create a trans-cultural fiction. "Zerzura" asks "what we are looking for in the desert, and what do we meet in these empty places?"

Zerzura film still
Zerzura film still

HISTORY

"I shall continue to think that Zerzura is one of the many names that have been given to the many fabulous cities which the mystery of the great North African desert has for ages created in the minds of those to whom it was hardly accessible." Reginald Bagnold, March 1937

The story of Zerzura first appears in the Kitab Al Kanuz (“Book of Hidden Treasures”), a mysterious 13th century lost manuscript. Translated as the “oasis of little birds,” it is a magical place, a city of treasures, guarded by supernatural forces. There is no further mention until 1835, when European Egyptologist John Gardner Wilkinson discovers yet another account from the Emir of Benghazi. The "Zerzura Club" is formed, and there is feverish exploration throughout the 1920s to find the lost city.

In the Aïr, the name “Zerzura” is known as a nameless but dangerous oasis. The first written account comes from 1902, of an “enchanted oasis…belong[ing] to the genii” with "golden domes and minarets” and "inhabited by women more beautiful than houris,” of which only one man has ever returned.

To this day, Zerzura has not been found.

BACKGROUND

In the past years, while traipsing about the Sahara, one of the most frequent conversations is about place, the ubiquitous “West.” The thoughts and expectations of America (or Europe) are mythic, fantastical, and loaded with exoticism. I began to speculate the stories were not about "the West" at all. It was in this research that I came across the story of Zerzura - a myth has persisted over the centuries in mistranslation between cultures.

I wanted to create a real search for Zerzura. In a land of open deserts and lawless borderlands, the genre style of "Western" seemed a natural model. But we also wanted to incorporate the rich folklore and supernatural stories that permeate everday life. While researching locations, I encountered the surreal structures of Swiss artist NOT VITAL, hulking architectural wonders that surround Agadez. We used these constructions as an inspiration and backdrop to imagine and journey into the fantastic.

Zerzura film still
Zerzura film still

THE PROCESS

In February 2016 I traveled to Agadez to research Zerzura. Over two weeks, I interviewed dozens of participants about local folklore (Tuareg, Hausa, Zarma). I interviewed migrants, smugglers, gold prospectors, musicians, artists, and actors about their experiences and ideas.

In June 2016, I returned to Agadez for one month. Hosting a workshop with co-producers Ahmoudou Madassane, Guichene Mohamed, and Rhissa Koutata, we developed a script and storyboard. The images were shot over two weeks with a cast of non-actors. Much of the filming was improvisational. The film was shot in Aïr Tamasheq dialect of Northern Niger.

Everyone brought our own inspirations to this film project. During our workshop, we watched films from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Jim Jarmusch, and Sergio Leone. I was inspired in process by the film work of Maya Deren, Robert Gardner, and Jean Rouch. Stylistically, the film exists between cultures. The execution is experimental, but the finished film will be a story driven genre picture.

film production, Agadez 2016
film production, Agadez 2016

PLEDGES

Pledges go towards post-production costs. It is essential that we maintain the participatory nature of the process. The footage has been shot but it has yet to be edited. The first cut will be sent back to our team in Niger, who will record and design sound for the film. In addition, Ahmoudou Madassane will create an original score.

Note: suffice to say, this is co-production, and any profit from this campaign and final film are split with our Nigerien partners.

CHRISTOPHER KIRKLEY is an experimental anthropologist, sound recordist, and filmmaker. Christopher explores culture through collaborative media productions. Working on SAHEL SOUNDS since 2009, a music project and record label focused on the Sahel of West Africa, he has released over 35 albums. Christopher directed AKOUNAK TEDALAT TAHA TAZOUGHAI (2015), a feature length Tuareg language homage to Purple Rain. He also recently worked on the afro-futurist exhibtion/vinyl record/photo booklet UCHRONIA: THE UNEQUIVOCAL INTERPRETATION OF REALITY (2015), documenting an alternate reality of Bamako where Mali discovered America. Christopher’s films have been featured at festivals in the U.S. and around the world, including Anthology Film Archives, Singapore International Film Fest, Cinemagic, Pesaro, and more. His work has appeared in The New York Times, NPR, the Village Voice, The Wire Magazine, and VICE.

Collaborating artist AHMOUDOU MADASSANE is a musician who plays in the guitar tradition of Tuareg folk music from the Sahara. He is a member of the musical group of Mdou Moctar, and has toured extensively throughout the world. Since 2014 he has worked with Sahel Sounds on a variety of projects. Ahmoudou had his acting debut in 2015, playing a major role in AKOUNAK TEDALAT TAHA TAZOUGHAI. Ahmoudou is based in Agadez, Niger.

film production, Agadez 2016
film production, Agadez 2016

 

Risks and challenges

There are always risks to making films - however the hardest part has been completed (a very difficult shoot in searing 120 degree temperatures and intermittent dust storms!) The objective is now to maintain a very clear process driven post production. Ideally this will involve bringing at least one of the production team to Portland to edit the project together. The biggest challenge is the aesthetic - to create a film that will resonate with both cultures.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Thank you!

    Thank you for the support! Receive project updates and sneak peeks of the post-production process.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    21 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Digital d/l of the "Zerzura" soundtrack

    Digital download of the original score for "Zerzura" - produced by actor/protagonist/co-producer Ahmoudou Madassane (and member of group Mdou Moctar)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    28 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Digital d/l of the film "Zerzura"

    Advance digital screener of the completed film "Zerzura" + all of the above

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    74 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Book of stories

    LIMITED BOOKLET of folktales recorded in Agadez from the research of "Zerzura." Stores about djinn, magical cities, and urban legends, many written for the first time + d/l of film + d/l of soundtrack

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 75 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Field Recordings from the Sahara

    Original never before released field recordings from travels in the Sahara, available on this one time limited cassette + d/l of film + d/l of soundtrack

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 26 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Vinyl of "Zerzura" OST

    Vinyl version of "Zerzura" OST + d/l of film + d/l of soundtrack (please note vinyl will be delayed a bit)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    19 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Film poster

    "Zerzura" film poster with original artwork + d/l of film + d/l of soundtrack

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 12 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Tuareg Artisinal Leather Bag

    Handmade Tuareg leather bag, specially commissioned from Agadez + d/l of film + d/l of soundtrack

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Associate Producer

    Become Associate Producer! All of the above + 2 tickets to the film premiere + your name as Associate Producer on credits/IMDb

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Co-producer

    Become a Co-Producer of "Zerzura!" All of the above + full vinyl discography of SAHELSOUNDS (currently available) + your name listed as Co-Producer on credits/IMDb

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Executive Producer

    Become an Executive Producer on "Zerzura!" All of the above + 4 additional tickets to the premiere + 1 ticket to the festival of your choosing + your name on the credits/IMDb

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (30 days)