Before I started my internship, I did not know much about the history of cinema in the African Diaspora. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that international recognition of African films really picked up in the 1980s. Prior to this decade, international awards given to African films were sparse and often given to a select few such as Ousmane Sembène and Med Hondo. In the ’80s, more directors began to receive recognition from the West for their work. In particular, Gaston Kaboré and Souleymane Cissé, rose in status with their award-winning films. So for the second part in this blog series, I’ve chosen to highlight two films from the directors based on their wide international acclaim.

Wend Kuuni by Gaston Kaboré, Burkina Faso (1983) –This movie is about a young mute boy who has been found and adopted by another family. The child, named Wend Kuuni (translated as God’s Gift), bonds with his adoptive sister and settles into his new life. He later witnesses a tragic event that causes him to regain his speech and finally tell his real story. It won the Cesar Award for Best French Language Film in 1985 and Kaboré directed a sequel, Buud Yam, in 1997.

Yeelen (Brightness) by Souleymane Cissé, Mali (1987) – This is a coming of age film about a young African man who has magical powers and must travel across West Africa to find his uncle so he can defeat his jealous shaman father. It won the Jury Prize and was also nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. This movie remains very well-received, having been chosen as one of the “100 Best Films of World Cinema” by Empire Magazine in 2010.

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