Grand prize winner at the Pan-African Film Festival in Ouagadougou this year, "Buud Yam" is a beautifully lensed fairy tale able to entrance both children and adults open to African storytelling. Written and directed by Burkina Faso veteran Gaston Kabore, it is a sequel to the director's well-known 1982 feature, "Wend Kuuni." With a festival run guaranteed, this small film is a candidate for limited arthouse release. In "Buud Yam," the child Wend Kuuni has grown into a young man in his adopted village. Flashbacks clipped from the previous film remind the audience how Wend Kuuni's mother was stoned to death as a sorceress, and how her baby was found and raised by foster parents. When his foster sister Pughneere (Amssatou Maiga) falls sick of a mysterious illness, superstitious fingers point at Wend Kuuni (Serge Yanogo) as the culprit.
To avoid his mother’s fate and save his sister, the youth sets forth on horseback on an arduous quest that will take him through forests and across deserts. At last, nearly dead himself, he stumbles onto a wise old healer whose potions cure Pughneere. With heartfelt apologies and much rejoicing, the villagers reinstate Wend Kuuni as a member in good standing of the community.
On one level, the story is similar to Western and Eastern myths about the hero and his quest for a lost Grail, or, in this case, a magical medicine. Not only does it restore health to the sick girl, but it dissipates the clouds of superstition, intolerance and suspicion that hang over the otherwise happy village. Kabore’s message, arising out of the story itself, is that we must be tolerant of people different from ourselves.
As Wend Kuuni, Yanogo is a dignified young horseman with a faraway look in his eyes, who knows he is set apart from his native-born companions. It is easy to see why the two graceful teenage girls, Pughneere and her friend Komkieta (Severine Oueddouda), adore him. Last scene sets the stage for a third round of Wend Kuuni stories, as the young hero asks himself who his real father is.
Kabore is a masterful raconteur able to hold the viewer’s attention despite the typical slow pace of African films. He tells his story in exceptionally clear, simple images that are restful to look at, aided by Jean-Noel Ferragut’s sharp-edged cinematography. Composer Michel Portal adds an unexpected modern note to the timeless story through his musical commentary, combining native instruments with a soft jazz sound.