Yeelen (Brightness) (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

Yeelen (Brightness) (1987)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Yeelen (Brightness) Photos

Movie Info

Filmed in the African country of Mali, Yeelen (Brightness) weaves several Kenyan folk stories into an engaging framework. The hero is a young boy whose father is an evil magician. Marked for death by his long-absent papa, the boy bids goodbye to his mother and heads for the hills. En route to his kindly uncle, our hero utilizes his own conjuring skills for the benefit of those less fortunate than himself; he also rescues a king from being deposed. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Issiaka Kane
as Nianankoro
Aoua Sangare
as Attou la jeune femme Peul
Balla Moussa Keita
as Rouma Boll the king Peul
Soumba Traore
as Mah the mother
Ismaila Sarr
as Bofing l'oncle
Youssouf Tenin Cisse
as Le petit garcon d'Attou
Koke Sangare
as Le chef de Komo
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Yeelen (Brightness)

All Critics (7)

Like many stories of creation, Yeelen begins with light: the sun rises over a barren West African landscape.

Full Review… | May 17, 2004
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

A visually spellbinding masterpiece.

Full Review… | December 17, 2003
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

It's a sign of true genius that a director can summon the rise, fall and subsequent rebirth of the cosmos with such a profound understanding and respect for the shape of things.

Full Review… | September 21, 2003
Slant Magazine

Very effective in transporting you to its time and setting.

Full Review… | February 28, 2002
Goatdog's Movies

Audience Reviews for Yeelen (Brightness)

Yeelen is a magical tale full of the rich history of Mali brought very effectively to life given the inevitably small budget. It is the earliest film that I have seen for the region and was inevitably the inspiration for other film makers from Northwest Africa.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic]In "Yeelen", Niankoro(Issiaka Kane) and his mother(Soumba Traore) have been on the run from his father, Soma(Niamanto Sanogo), for the past ten years. But now he is quickly closing in.(Niankoro, now a young man, is like his father, a wizard.) Partially out of desperation, his mother formulates a plan where her and her son are to split up. While she petitions help from higher powers, she gives him a fetish and glass pyramid to give to his uncle, so he can reconcile father and son.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"Yeelen" is a resplendently spiritual movie about the world changing which is personified in the conflict between father and son. Soma perhaps rightfully fears his son becoming more powerful than him and taking his place, and seeks to stop his ascension. In the meantime, Niankoro has power but not quite the knowledge of the world to go along with it.[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


An unusual African folk tale. A young man with shamanistic powers is chased all over Mali but his father, who seeks to kill him. The reason why is never entirely clear, from what I could gather there may have been a political allegory involved. The film is quite well shot and performances are compelling if not especially deep. It provides some interesting glances at Bambara culture and mythology, though I'm in no position to validate its authenticity. The surreal, magical, ambiguous nature of the movie is intriguing, but ultimately doesn't add up to anything exciting. Glad to have watched it once, wouldn't bother with it again. And the sight of a live chicken being set on fire was rather unpleasant.

Martin Teller
Martin Teller

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