Monday, February 26, 2007

Film Review - Kirikou et la Sorciere

Directed By: Michel Ocelet

When it was first released in France in 1999, this delightful animated children's story was the source of unlikely controversy. Set in an imaginary Africa, it tells the story of Kirikou, a stubborn newborn baby who's so eager to see the world, he clambers out of his mother's belly unannounced and starts firing off an exhausting array of questions.

It sounds harmless enough. What upset director Michel Ocelet's critics was the fact that the little urchin spends the whole movie in his birthday suit, chatting to the bare-breasted women of his village before battling the slinky, evil sorceress who's blackmailing them into poverty. Convinced that nudity wasn't compatible with a children's movie, Ocelet's original producers bizarrely demanded he cover Kirikou up and draw bras on all his female characters!

Fortunately, the director was sensible enough to stay faithful to the story's original West African origins. The result is an unexpected treat on every level. Drawing out the mythic undertones of the tale, "Kirikou and the Sorceress" follows the little 'un as he journeys into the underworld (tunnelling under the forest in a spectacular subterranean sequence); takes advice from the wise old man on the mountain; and finally finds a way to defeat the sorceress.

Whether the children in the audience will get the point of the story (a variation on the thorn in the lion's paw) or the psychological undercurrents of Kirikou facing down the castrating sorceress, doesn't really matter, since this gorgeous tale works on so many levels. Taking its artistic inspiration from African sculpture and Egyptian art, the distinctive pictorial style of Ocelet's award-winning feature is bolstered by an authentic soundtrack from Senegalese musician Youssou N'dour.

Couple this with the film's pint-sized but big-mouthed hero, and you've got one of the most enchanting animated features in quite some time.

Reviewed By: Jamie Russell

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