BFI introduction to this 35mm screening:
Poet and novelist Ben Okri introduces Yeelen, a film set in the sun-baked landscapes of West Africa, which follows the relationship between a sorcerer and his son and the ensuing conflict between them. Cissé wanted to make a film in which ‘the ancient depths of African culture will surge up again,’ and here he presents a work of great beauty and mysticism – often cited as a stand-out in world cinema.
Chicago Reader review:
Souleymane Cisse's extraordinarily beautiful and mesmerizing fantasy (1987) is set in the ancient Bambara culture of Mali (formerly French Sudan) long before it was invaded by Morocco in the 16th century. A young man (Issiaka Kane) sets out to discover the mysteries of nature (or komo, the science of the gods) with the help of his mother and uncle, but his jealous father contrives to prevent him from deciphering the elements of the Bambara sacred rites and tries to kill him. Apart from creating a dense and exciting universe that should make George Lucas green with envy, Cisse has shot breathtaking images and accompanies his story with a spare, hypnotic, percussive score. Sublimely mixing the matter-of-fact with the uncanny, this wondrous work provides an ideal introduction to a filmmaker who is, next to Ousmane Sembene, probably Africa's greatest director.
Here (and above) is an extract.