A marvel for eye and ear, this superior animated feature (1998) by Michel Ocelot adapts a West African folktale about a fearless, inquisitive boy who breaks a beautiful sorceress's spell over his village. In Ocelot's hands the tale stresses the virtues of patience, determination, and independent thinking, though it's subtly propelled by themes that range from the tribal to the universal. The animation is not only riveting but highly attuned to African culture, drawing inspiration from such disparate sources as Gustave Moreau, Henri Rousseau, ancient Egyptian art, and African sculpture, all of them enhanced by vivid colors. Also faithful to the African origins is the sound track: the French dialogue is spoken by African actors, and the vibrant music by Dakar-based Youssou N'Dour is performed on indigenous instruments. Though created by a Frenchman (albeit one who grew up in Guinea) this highly entertaining and thought-provoking film is far more appreciative of its origins than The Lion King. In French with subtitles.
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