Kirikou & the Sorceress is a French animated film from 1998 based on an African folktale and it’s something I’ve been meaning to check out for years. It got a good review from one of the feminist blogs I frequent a few months ago (can’t remember which one) and a couple of my friends with ties to France have recommended it to me multiple times. Anyway my friend Bankuei owns it and ended up lending it to me and last weekend I finally watched it.
Now I know a lot of my friends and people I respect loved it and it’s hugely popular in France but for me personally my reaction verged on – Meh. I mean I thought there were great things going on but there were also things that really bothered me and made me twitch. Weighing those two reactions against each other makes it an unenthusiastic thumbs up from me. I’m not sorry I watched it but is it one of those films I would buy and re-watch, not so much.
Viewed through my anti-racism lens I liked it a lot, there were no parts that were problematic or made me cringe. In fact I thought it was very relaxed and wonderfully set up. I thought that despite the fact that it was made in France it had a very African feel to it. The animation of the characters was fantastic with different colors of skin, different breast shapes and sizes and most of the characters were simply human. The characters that were snappy or mean, were just snappy or mean there was no attempt to really link that with their blackness which I found refreshing. I also really liked that the nudity of characters was not a huge factor. I thought that Kirikou was a very interesting character and I liked him from the start and I felt the same about Karaba, the evil sorceress who has eaten all the men of the village, that he must fight. I thought she was an intriguing character that could have done something revolutionary. In that little “could” lies the problem.
Viewed through the lens of my feminism, I was much less happy with the story. I felt that Karaba was pretty two dimentional but in a way where they seemed to be actively trying to not make her flat and just failed, which made it even more disappointing because there was all this potential. I have a couple of specific issues with her characterization and a couple of plot points but they’re quite spoilery and I think will go in a post for Feminist SF – The Blog (I’ll let y’all know when that goes up).
Overall I say rent it, watch it, it’s definitely worth that and you might actually like it a lot and want to buy it. I mean the feminist blog I read loved it for some good reasons, those reasons just didn’t outweigh the problems I saw.