Yeelen is a Malian film directed by Souleymane Cissé. It is filmed in the Bambara and Fula languages and is based on a legend told by the Bambara people. Though the era is undefined, it is presumably set in the 13th century in the Mali Empire and is a heroic quest narrative featuring magic and precognition.
In this epic drama drawing on Bambara culture, which echoes mythic legends in an invented tale, a hero undergoes ordeals that allow him to renovate a decaying society. A young man must penetrate the secrets of the Komo cult (a real caste of specialist knowledge among the Bambara), whose members have abused their spiritual powers. Niamankoro suffers his father's wrath as he travels throughout the Bambara empire and Dogon and Peul societies.
Yeelen met with wide success and was awarded the Jury Prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Golden Palm award for the same year.
Director: Souleymane Cissé (1912 –1982) (Adapted from Wikipedia: Click Here).
Born in Bamako and raised in a Muslim family, Souleymane Cissé was a passionate cinephile from childhood. He attended secondary school in Dakar, and returned to Mali in 1960 after national independence. His film career began as an assistant projectionist for a documentary on the arrest of Patrice Lumumba. This triggered his desire to create films of his own, and he obtained a scholarship to the Moscow school of Cinema and Television. In 1970 he returned to Mali once more, and joined the Ministry of Information as a cameraman, where he produced documentaries and short films.
In 1972, he produced his first medium-length film, Cinq jours d’une vie (Five Days in a Life), which tells the story of a young man who drops out of a Qur'anic school and becomes a petty thief living on the street. Cinq Jours premiered at the Carthage Film Festival. In 1974, he produced his first full-length film in the Bambara language, Den muso (The Girl), the story of a young mute girl who has been raped. The girl becomes pregnant, and is rejected both by her family and by the child's father. Den Muso was banned by the Malian Minister of Culture, and Cissé was arrested and jailed for having accepted French funding.
In 1978, Cissé produced Baara (Work), which received the Yenenga's Talon prize at Fespaco in 1979. In 1982, he produced Finyé (Wind), which tells the story of dissatisfied Malian youth rising up against the establishment. This earned him his second Yenenga's Talon, at 1983's Fespaco. Between 1984 and 1987, he produced Yeelen (Light), a coming-of-age film which won the Jury Prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. In 1995, he produced Waati (Time) which competed for the Palme d'Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
Cissé is president of UCECAO, the Union of Creators and Entrepreneurs of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts of Western Africa.