• Eric Graham



Director: Souleymane Cissé

Starring: Issiaka Kane, Aoua Sangare, Niamanto Sanogo

Genre: Fantasy, Coming-of-age fiction

Yeelen (Brightness) is a Malian film based on an old legend told by the Bambara people. It’s set in (what I can assume) the 13th century and consists out of a heroic narrative featuring magic and clairvoyance. Upon the get-go, I wasn’t that intrigued by the film or the nature of it’s style, until I crossed a bridge of cultural difference.

The film takes us on a journey with a young sorcerer, who travels to his uncle to ask for assistance in the fight against his father. There is a lot of character development that takes place on this journey and our protagonist even finds a wife. Based on an old legend, this film was constructed in such a way to not only relate with their people, but also appeal to others.

The centre of this film, is magic itself. Cissé is depicting people, for whom magic is real and practical. The mastery of its power is an authentic art and the visual artistry of the film definitely reflects the magical world of his characters. One of the most climactic scenes bids a spectacular (and apocalyptic) use of special effects. This use of visual elements can suggest that the magic of our own time is not only artistic and photographic.

This film, at its very least, is a masterpiece of figurative realism. It’s quite unsatisfactory to have learnt that Cissé has only made two feature films in the last twenty years, since I would have loved to see more of his work.


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