(Brightness / The Light)

Screening on Film
Directed by Souleymane Cissé.
With Issiaka Kane, Aoua Sangare, Niamanto Sanogo.
Mali, 1987, 35mm, color, 105 min.
Bambara and Fulah with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

Set in an indeterminate period among the Bambara people of director Cissé’s Mali homeland, in central northwest Africa, Yeelen focuses on a spiritual battle waged between a father and a son. Drawing his tale from the oral traditions of the Bambara, Cissé has fashioned an innovative narrative style that captures his people’s belief in "time as circular, not linear, always returning to that initial ’brightness’ which creates the world." Yeelen is a local drama with Oedipal overtones and elements of the coming-of-age story, but its theme of social responsibility is timelessly universal. It has been called "the most beautifully photographed African film ever."

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: U–Z