159 of 1001 Movies: Brightness (1987)

Brightness, otherwise known as Yeelen, is a movie, that explores themes and ideas that it doesn’t seem westerners would really put into a movie, or make a movie in a way that would appeal to our senses. It does lull in a lot of spots though, and I think gets lost from it’s ultimate goal, but there is still something that pulled me in enough to get my attention, and keep me there till the end of the movie. It isn’t a movie with a perfect lead character out to get the bad guy, but instead broken individuals seeming to try to keep things from getting worse.

Summary: Niankoro is a young man who is very special, because he has magical powers. He tries to use those powers for good, but as a human he does sometimes weave bad places for himself. His mother knows though that he is in danger because his father, who abandoned him when he was little, is returning and wants to kill him. She sends him away to find his uncle to ask for help against his father who has strong sorcerer powers.

Acting: The acting in this film feels very natural despite the fact the actors are unknowns. I think their ties to their own culture, and the connection they have to the story that is connected to the Malian culture. Despite the silent moments of the film even there is just a lot to be said emotionally as the characters interact with each other, and it makes the movie feel very real. The acting is probably the most solid thing about the movie.

Filming: Soulyemane Cisse took a very simple approach with filming, but it does capture the beauty of the area they live in. It brings Africa to life in a way that you envision it, and provides insight into the people living there that you wouldn’t know about their character otherwise. The film though doesn’t seem to have went any restoration though, so it looks really poor in comparison to many restored movies. The shots do a lot for the landscape as well, but they don’t do as much to liven the interaction between the characters or make the movie more emotional. I think that is one of the things that contributes to the very empty feeling I was left feeling after it was over.

Plot: The plot deals with themes that were good to ponder over, and be able to recognize unlike many movies you may watch. One of the things important to the people in this film was not being shamed or humiliated. While people may not realize it, that is something our culture really doesn’t value any more. We think of shame and humiliation as things to avoid feeling, and focus more on always feeling pride even in our mistakes. Those two feelings stretch back to keeping you humble though, which many people really lack. I liked the themes, I just felt the character development could have been done better, because the ending battle really is well done, but the rest of the movie almost doesn’t hold as much to it.

Brightness is a movie that deals with a lot of things worth thinking over. It also builds on the extension of a new generation. There are some things that largely take away from the movie, for example we don’t even have a clear idea of what era this is set in, and we can only assume why the father is hunting the son. Maybe because he doesn’t want a more powerful man in existence than him? That should be obvious I suppose, but you still want to state that.

Rating 6 of 10.

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