YECS: Netherlands


By Bente Niemeijer and Quita Felix

As our double feature we chose the films KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE and YEELEN. After watching the first film, we came up with the idea of choosing two African films. We wanted our selection to be films with a different, non-Western, perspective on filmmaking and with a different kind of story; films you don’t often see in European cinemas.

Although KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE was a co-production of several European film companies, the creators wanted to bring into existence a film that differed from other animation films in terms of design and story. In KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE a simple 2D animation style is used: the characters appear to be made of cardboard cut-outs, but the background seems a painting brought to life. Director Michel Ocelot explains: “I advised the designers that each plant in the forest should be a masterpiece, botanically accurate, with Egyptian stylization, colouring from Henri Rousseau, with each petal and leaf carefully made iridescent.”

The music of KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE, composed by Senegalese singer Youssou N’dour, gives the film an extra dimension. What is also special about KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE is that the English and French voice-acting was done by African actors from South-Africa and Senegal.

In YEELEN no concessions are made to address people who want a clear story, more action and hollywood-effects. The story is told at a slow pace. Camera shot lasts for a long time before a new shot is introduced, sometimes causing the images to look like photographs. This slow way of storytelling makes the film feel more realistic and the characters more human. The film also contains long dialogues. These characteristics can make watching the film a challenge for western viewers, who are not well-versed in the African symbolic and storytelling traditions. Irrespective, the ending of the film is rewarding, when through a jump ahead in time, the spiritual secrets are passed to the next generation.

KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIÈRE and YEELEN are based on West-African folk tales. Both films not only give you an image of sub-Saharan African culture, but also of the incredible African landscape.

It will be a special evening in which you will be immersed in beautiful landscapes, unusual storytelling and wonderful music. Not only will these films remain in your mind for a long time, these films will also give you a new frame of reference to look at the world.