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Kirikou and the Sorceress

Not Rated, 71 minutes
Written by Michel Ocelot
Directed by Michel Ocelot with Raymond Burlet

IN SHORT: An enchanting and delightful tale for kidlets and the li'l kidlet inside.

How does this figure? A French born animator takes a West African fairy tale, gets Peter Gabriel collaborator Youssou N'Dour to do the music and delivers the whole thing in an English dub to four American theaters where no one will see the thing. This is the curse of the indie flick, folk, and this is one of the times I'll screech about something that was delightful.

From the first frame, you know that you're looking at a story that is, to say the lease, unusual. A very pregnant African sits. A voice comes from her belly saying "I am ready to be born now!" The soon to be mother replies "Any child that says to me it is ready to be born can do it himself" (I'm paraphrasing). So the kidlet crawls out of mom, snaps the umbilical with his hands and proclaims to the world "I AM KIRIKOU!" and walks away. Not only can he walk and talk, he can run at speeds akin to The Flash of comic book fame. The kidlet is adorable and the film is entrancing from the start.

Like all good fairy tales, there is an evil witch. In this case it is the Sorceress Karaba, who lives in a hut outside the village. Nearly all the male warriors of the village disappeared, presumed dead, after going off to fight her. Karaba's lust is for all the gold of the village, and her demands are constant. Kirikou decides that he will end the threat of the Sorceress and, even more, discover why she hates the village so. It is a question that no one has thought to ask.

Again, like the good fairy tales, Kirikou gets help. From the plants and animals of the local forest. From a mystic wise man who lives at the end of a very dangerous trek through territory controlled by Karaba. With the knowledge he has gained, Kirikou's final confrontation with the sorceress is quite surprising.

The animation keeps the African feel of the story. The Masai natives are dressed according to their style (think National Geographic) but there is no sexual implication that could concern parents of tiny kidlets. N'Dour's music is a perfect complement to the story and, darn it, this kidlet is plain out adorable.

I can't tell you much about this flick. Voicework is by Theo Sebeko (Kirikou), Antoinette Kellermann (Karaba), Kombisile Sangweni (the Mother), Mabuto Sithole (Wise Man) and Fezele Mpeka (Kiricou's uncle). It's distribution is almost nil. Even if you have to search it out on tape, 'toonheads will want to see this beautifully told tale which, like all archetypal folk tales, finds its parallels in fables like Androcles and the Lion and intellectual explanations by Joseph Campbell. Long time readers know Cranky eats that stuff for breakfast, which means I walked out of the screening as one happy camper.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Kirikou and the Sorceress, he would have paid...


That release schedule I've got puts Kirikou and the Sorceress in New York on February 18, Chicago on March 10 and Northern California on March 24. Other than that, read the fine print in your newspapers. Badger your video stores. Find this flick.

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