Yeelen / Brightness

Director: Souleymane Cissé
Country: France, Burkina Faso, and Mali
Year: 1987
Running Time: 106 min
Language: Bambara

Set in a timeless past, Yeelen recounts the mythic tale of a power struggle between father and son. Soma Diarra, the jealous father and member of a feared Bambara secret society, plots to kill his son and rival, Nianankoro. Highly stylized and deliberately paced, Yeelen forces the viewer to navigate fundamental oppositions: change and tradition, life and death, light and darkness. Inspired by the classic oral literature of the Mande, Cissè traces the circle of time and shows us that the origin and the end are one and the same. Film Comment called Yeelen “not only the most beautifully photographed African film ever, but also the best African film ever made.”

About the Director

Souleymane Cissé

cisseBiography: Born in Bamako, Mali in 1940, Souleymane Cissé went to high school in Dakar before winning a scholarship enabling him to attend the VGIK in Moscow. Upon his return, he became cameraman-reporter for the Ministry of Information’s film department. In 1975 he shot Den Muso (The Young Girl), the first full length Malian feature in the Bambara language. It was immediately banned by the government. Then followed Baara (Work) in 1977, Finye (The Wind) in 1982, and his masterpiece Yeelen (Brightness), Prix du Jury in Cannes in 1987. His film Waati (Time) was also selected for Cannes in 1995. An admired and respected filmmaker, Cissé is also Founding President of the Union of West African Cinema and Audiovisual Designers and Entrepreneurs and devotes his energy to developing an economically viable African audiovisual industry.


Films Shown in AFF, Inc. Programs:
Baara [Work] (2008);
Finye [The Wind] (1996, 1997);
Yeelen [Brightness] (1993);
Waati [Time] (1996).

L’Aspirant (1968);
Source d’inspiration (1968);
Dégal at Dialloubé (1970);
The Sanké Celebration (1971);
Five Days in a Life (1972);
Den Muso [The Young Girl] (1975);
L’Homme et ses idoles (1975);
Baara [Work] (1977);
Traditional Singers of the Seychelles (1978);
Finye [The Wind] (1982);
Yeelen [Brightness] (1987);
Waati [Time] (1995);
Tell Me Who You Are (2009).