Flying High, Longlist - Music Video

ISMA, A Short Visual Poem

Stefano Usberghi, Giovanni Corsi


"I met Isma about five years ago, while I was shooting a short film in the Foggia area, where there are ghettos, real open-air ‘slums’, where hundreds of migrants of African origin live, crammed together, in conditions of absolute precariousness. It is paradoxical because the one where we were filming in Borgo Mezzanone is right next to the Cara, which is a reception centre and therefore a place of the state. Next to the Cara, however, there is this ghetto called La Pista ghetto, which is not talked about or is talked about very little, a place that is really hard to believe can exist and where human conditions are so precarious and frayed that talking about it here would not give a plausible impression, it would be necessary to physically enter it to understand what conditions we are talking about. These are places where the state does not exist and is rarely mentioned. Down there, in the Foggia area, the tomato harvest is carried out in the summer for the big food chains under the illegal hiring, with no rights to work up to fifteen hours a day. Isma was one of the protagonists of this short film, which I shot as director of photography. However, that work was not about him. During the filming in the ghetto Isma told me his story, and how approaching music had somehow ‘saved his life’, I understood that this art form had a ‘healing’ power for him. These seemed to be interesting concepts on which to start working. They were elements that we wanted to channel into this short film. We listened to Isma play, there was energy, physical power, which is the very essence of percussion, and we knew that this was the fulcrum of our story."

Isma is the new movie by Stefano Usberghi & Giovanni Corsi produced by C41. Isma is an epic visual journey through the life and music of Ismalia Mbaye, an accomplished percussion master, considered one of the leading African percussionist on the European scene. The film is an intimate journey through his consciousness, where the act of creating music is the key to transform one’s dark side into an opportunity for redemption and healing. Ismaila’s music is a sincere dedication to those who fight, often paying with their lives for the respect of human rights.