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T500FC, 455th: Brightness [Yeelen] (Souleymane Cissé, 1987)

March.8.2011

One of the few films Mali has released in cinema history, Yeelen was greatly recognized around the world, even winning the prestigious Jury Prize in the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. An individual may wonder why it garnered attention globally. Well, the film featured its African version of an epic story and sci-fi combined. And the wisest thing about this film, it provided a few bits and pieces of an African narrative.

It features a young man who is in quest of finding his father. Alongside the quest, a magical post was introduced to the viewers separately. This magical post was what the young man’s father was using to guide him. Now this young man, while traveling, encountered another tribe, and with a sense of extreme courage, he was able to surpass the impossible.

I was constantly debating in my head on whether I really understood the film. I was trying to find the realism in the film. I mean I am probably used to the recent African-made cinemas with the likes of Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi and Fernando Meirelles’ City Of God. Who would have thought that the African cinema could create something as magical as this?

Though I almost had to spill my guts out trying to understand the predicament of the film, much of it is simple though. It was just a young man trying to find a father. It pulsed highly when the young man entered or was captured by the other tribe. As much as I understood how story line of films works, the “they would not kill the main protagonist” approach, I still found how he was able to show something that was kind of stupid in real life, though tremendously understandable in the young man’s position and probably how they dealt it in their country.

As the high number of computer graphics of scenes often bombards me, provided mostly by the western nations, such film was quite a feat to the cinema of Mali. It was something at that time and it is still something at this day and age. It was able to provide us with its Brightness all the way.

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