When a young high-school girl invites her new boyfriend home to study, her father becomes enraged and orders the youth to play the cora, a traditional West African musical instument. Throwing some change at the young “griot,” the father indicates the class divisions that necessarily preclude a relationship with his daughter.
Kaboré’s most recent feature film, which took the prestigious Etalon De Yenenga award at the Pan-African Film Festival in Ougadougou, is a sequel of sorts to his celebrated Wend Kuuni. Set at the beginning of the nineteenth century, deep in a bend of the River Niger, it reprises the title character of the earlier film—the mute orphan boy adopted by a village family, now a young man doted on by his stepparents but shunned as an outsider by the villagers. When his beloved adopted sister falls mysteriously ill, Wend Kuuni is blamed and, desperate to restore her to health, he sets out on an epic journey in search of “lion’s herbs,” the elusive cure described to him by a village elder. While it presents a traditional coming-of-age narrative, the film broaches broader issues that in Kaboré’s view have the capacity either to affirm or to destroy the world and its humanity: acceptance, tolerance, and dialogue on the one hand; fear of the other, defiance, intolerance, and exclusion on the other.