27 June 2006

Kirikou: Tiny African Hero (Film Review)

Kirikou is tiny, but very powerful. While his mother is still pregnant, he asks her to give birth to him. She calmly replies that if he can speak to her from the womb, he can certainly give birth to himself. So he does, crawling out of her womb, cutting his own umbilical cord, and setting forth in short order to confront the evil sorceress who steals the village's men and water.

Kirikou & the Sorceress is a 74-minute animated film with a unique and luscious visual style, a distinctly African perspective, and subtle, effective music by Youssou N'Dour. Released in 1998, it was a film festival hit, though it escaped my view until recently.

What makes this such a compelling film? Certainly the hero: He's tiny, but he doesn't succumb (as do other villagers) to despair, or blind faith, or group-think. He asks questions nobody else asks, he sees with clarity, and he takes action boldly, and with purpose. Perhaps best of all, he doesn't see the world in terms of good and evil, resulting in a climactic redemption at the film's end. The film says it's recommended "for children of all ages," but some parents will undoubtedly be put off by the (tastefully) topless women in the story. (Parents might be better concerned with the villagers' closed-mindedness, or the children's gullibility, or the real moral issues in this tale.) Here's the film's trailer:

I've been unable to track down a soundtrack to this film, though I believe one exists. If anyone can help out, let me know. The film's website is kirikou.net (which will sell you the film for $17.97) and it's distributed by africanfilm.com, who have a number of great-sounding films. Anyone know of other films like Kirikou?

Does the ultimate triumph of this unlikely hero hold a lesson for the Black Stars of Ghana? They're a clear underdog in the World Cup match with Brazil this morning, but they've pulled out some surprising results. Can they do it again? It's unlikely, but if they miraculously give birth to their own quarterfinal appearance, all Africa will rejoice and the sound of a great wailing and gnashing of teeth will be heard from South America's largest nation.

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