Starring: Doudou Gueye Thiaw, Maimouna N’Diaye, Awa Sene Sarr
Director: Michel Ocelot, Raymond Burlet
Running Time: 71 mins
Kirikou And The Sorceress is a French film about a young, newborn boy who, with his high intellect and bold courageousness, helps his drought-stricken village to stand up to an evil sorceress.
It may be short in length, and may not feature the highest standard of production, but as this very film teaches, that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. Both an entertaining adventure and a touching fable, Kirikou And The Sorceress is a great watch throughout, impressing further with an often overbearingly dark tone that harks back to tales and legends of old.
First things first, the film is based on original West African folklore, and that comes through brilliantly throughout. This isn’t some sort of updated, Hollywood-ified fable that piggybacks of the original tale, but more a sort of storybook that tells the legend as children in the local area would hear of it.
As a result, Kirikou And The Sorceress is far from the most dazzling folktale ever made for the big screen, and definitely can’t compete with the likes of Disney in terms of inspiring awe in younger viewers. However, with an earthy and sometimes eerie atmosphere that doesn’t hold back from some of the darker emotional themes at play, it’s a story that often packs a much bigger punch.
That’s not to say the film isn’t suitable for kids, and although some elements of its animation style and some of those darker themes may cause the youngest viewers to feel a little unsettled, it’s no more heavy-going than some of the ideas that crop up in classic Disney movies, as Kirikou And The Sorceress touches on themes of discrimination and bullying, while also featuring a fascinating, self-aware edge that turns the head on some things that you might at first take as a given.
So, while the movie may seem small in scope as a result of its lower production values and short runtime, it’s really impressive to see just how much emotion and intelligence it manages to bring to the table throughout.
The emotional and thematic depth of Kirikou And The Sorceress is what really makes it work well, and if you’re coming from a perspective expecting something on the same level as Disney, or perhaps even more independent folktale films like Song Of The Sea, you may come out a little underwhelmed by the film’s animation and style.
Saying that, however, it’s a unique story that feels a lot truer to its African roots than if things were more dressed up in Hollwyood fashion. There’s not much of a musical score, and the landscapes in which much of the film is set is rather barren and unremarkable, but that actually speaks of a film that’s far more genuine at heart, and more interested in telling its touching and engrossing story.
And what’s more, while there are darker and eerier parts of the movie that may unsettle younger (and older) viewers, the movie’s folktale atmosphere is complemented by an uplifting and ultimately thoroughly enjoyable adventure story, as we follow young Kirikou as he boldly goes where nobody has come before in trying to defeat the evil sorceress.
It’s a simple story, but it’s more than enough to make for a fun watch, and when placed alongside its impressive emotional and thematic depth, Kirikou And The Sorceress really does leave an impression, no mean feat for a film that’s barely more than an hour long, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5 overall.