Friday, June 27, 2014

Kirikou and the Sorceress (orig. Kirikou et la Sorcière) [1998]

MPAA (Unrated/w. Parental Warning)  Eye4film (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars with Expl)

IMDb listing
NYT (E. Mitchell) review
BBC (J. Russell) review
Eye4Film (A. Wilkenson) review

Kirikou and the Sorceress (orig. Kirikou et la Sorcière) [1998] [IMDb] (written and directed by Michel Ocelot [IMDb] is a children's animated film based on West African folk-tales that I recently purchased at the 2013 Chicago African Diaspora Film Festival held recently at Facets Multimedia in Chicago.  (My religious order's annual Provincial Chapter conflicted with much this year's festival.  So instead of attending many of this year's selections, I purchased a number of films from previous festivals that they had on-sale at the showing, of Jews of Egypt [2013], that I did manage to see).  The current film, Kirikou and the Sorceress [1998] [IMDb] is available for streaming-rental on Amazon Instant Video and for purchase on DVD at

Parents should know that this film is an originally French rendering (though dubbed in English) of a traditional West African folk tale.  So the characters are depicted as dressed, or more to the point, as undressed, as one would expect to find them in their traditional West African village: the women are depicted topless as a matter of course and children playing in rivers and streams or dancing on the village grounds are depicted naked as well.  This is all done basically in "National Geographic" style, but it certainly deserves note here.

The story is about a precocious boy named Kirikou (voiced by Doudou Gueye Thiaw in the French version and by Theodore Sibusiso Sibeko in the English one).  At the beginning of the film, still in his mother's womb, he tells his mother (voiced in the French version by Maimouna N'Diaye, and in the English version by Kombisile Sangweni) that it's time for him step-out and enter into the world.  She tells him that if he can tell her that already from the womb, that he could make his own way out on his own, which he then does -- crawling out from under her skirt.

He then asks for his father and his mother tells him that all the men of the village have been killed and eaten by a wicked sorceress named Karaba (voiced in the French version by Awa Sene Sarr and in the English version by Antoinette Kellermann).  Karaba was a hateful woman who lived in the woods outside the village.  She had been tormenting the village for years.  And yet, no one could get to her as she was protected by a large number of animated wooden fetishes (statues).

So leave it to the little boy Kirikou to slowly remove the curses set against the village by this seeming evil sorceress, peal away her defenses and finally through the assistance of a wise old man (voiced in the French version by Robert Liensol and in the English version by Mabutho Kid Sithole) who lived in a citadel deep inside a nearby volcano, figure out why the sorceress was acting so wickedly and how she could be changed.

Of course, the story ends well, with Kirikou saving everyone and all.  The traditional "National Geographic" style nudity may disconcert many American viewers.  However, the payoff to others would be the realization that this story, based on traditional West African folk tales, certainly predated the recent Disney film Maleficient [2014], and probably predated the first rendering (in story book form) of Wicked (1995) which sought to understand/give context to two of the most notorious "wicked" witches of Western / European folk tales.

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