“Yeelen,” a movie shown as part of the Contemporary Global Cinema film series on campus, was shown on Oct. 12 in Walker Auditorium.
English professor Dr. David Swain chose “Yeelen,” directed by Souleymane Cissé, to include in this semester’s global theme for the series that has been occurring every semester since 2011.
“When my co-organizers and I were planning this series, we wanted to choose representative films from around the world, especially countries that aren’t usually represented in film series. I began to explore African cinema, looking for a film that was authentic, that is, not designed for western audiences, but that also spoke to some universal themes shared by many cultural traditions,” said Swain.
The film was released in 1987, but it is set in the 13th century.
“This movie, like all the films in our series, comes from a different culture that tells stories differently, that has a different vision of the world. In particular, ‘Yeelen’ is placed in a mythic time with mythic characters, a family of Koma sorcerers from the Bambara culture, in a landscape that is completely foreign to us, sub-Saharan Africa,” Swain said.
Spoken completely in Bambara and Fula languages, “Yeelen” is entirely subtitled.
“This film shows the landscape, feels the heat, and speaks directly to a culture with no artifice or attempt to simplify. That is valuable, but I won’t say it makes it easy film viewing,” said Swain.
In a question and answer session after the movie, students and faculty were asked if the film reminded them of any movies that are popular today.
“‘Yeelen’ struck me as a story that resonanated with such popular films as ‘Star Wars’ and even ‘Harry Potter’ in its treatment of the conflict of good and evil, special powers, the journey theme, and the epic, final showdown,” said Swain, to which many students agreed.
The movie left students and faculty with a sense of wonder as well as a new appreciation for an area of the world we know little about.
Dr. Swain recommends students and faculty attend the films presented in this series because of the opportunity they give to experience films that are out of our comfort zones.