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501 Ratings



Directed by Souleymane Cissé
Mali, Burkina Faso, 1987
Drama, Fantasy
  • Bambara
  • English


Set in the powerful Mali Empire of the 13th century, Yeelen follows the journey of Nianankoro, a young warrior who must battle the powerful Komo cult. Nianankoro’s greatest enemy is his own father, a dangerous and corrupt wizard who uses his dark magic to try and destroy his son.

Our take

Brightness is Souleymane Cissé’s masterpiece—and one of the few films the Malian director has made. An epic tale of myth and magic—yet also a profound present-day political allegory—realized both ingeniously and poetically, and the winner of the Jury Prize in Cannes in 1987.

Brightness Directed by Souleymane Cissé

Awards & Festivals

Cannes Film Festival

1987 | Winner: Jury Prize

1987 | Special Mention: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury

Independent Spirit Awards

1989 | Nominee: Best Foreign Film

Critics reviews

With Yeelen Cissé created a new creation myth for Mali, envisioning a nation united not divided by its ethnic and cultural diversity; it hopes for a country capable of ridding itself of its own evils through its own efforts. Only then will the yeelen truly return.
June 10, 2018
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Some viewers might fret that Yeelen reinforces a Western view of Africa as a continent of timeless archetypes and aestheticized surfaces, but Cissé’s colors, props, and singular tableaux cut deeper than that, bending conventional film grammar, and invigorating the eye and the mind alike.
May 17, 2017
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A masterwork of metaphysical realism. The climactic scene offers a stunningly simple yet apocalyptic use of special effects that suggests that the magic of our own time is artistic and cinematic, and that the site of the colossal battles of our own time would be, in essence, cultural.
November 16, 2010
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