Movie Review – Kirikou & The Sorceress

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.

10 responses to “Movie Review – Kirikou & The Sorceress

  1. Oooh, you watched! I had some problems with Karaba as well, though I think I ended up liking the movie more because I am a total sucker for the Karaba character archetype. Will be looking forward to your next post on it!

  2. Oyce:
    I’m a sucker for the Karaba archetype as well and when I think of it it’s more like the movie dissapointed me than I didn’t like it. Because if Karaba would have just fallen into those old Disney evil witch stereotypes I still would have loved her but instead there were all these moments where she seemed like she was gonna be so much more and then it just constantly fell down for me.
    I still like Karaba though! 🙂

  3. Heh. We have this out from Netflix now (haven’t watched it yet), together with “Cat Soup.”

    Have you seen “Paprika” yet?

  4. Well, Rhi and I tried “Cat Soup” but we didn’t get through the whole thing. The opening sequence was quite good, but then afterward the weird cutting-things-up was too much when we got to about the fourth slicing and dicing. Clearly we were not the audience for this film.

    Onward to Kirikou.

  5. Yeah, I was less happy with the ending, but I did like the completely un-American resolution of the story. American stories based in strife almost always end in physical and/or emotional destruction, and this did not.

    I was also glad to see one movie employ more black voice talent than the entirety of the Disney’s existence.

  6. Kate:
    Yeah, I can totally see the slicing and dicing in Cat Soup becoming too much.

    I haven’t seen Paprika yet but I’ll go add it to the netflix queue right now.

  7. I’ve got Paprika. It’s full of head damage. Though there is one scene I have to warn you is triggering on the sexualized violence tip.

  8. I saw most of Paprika, except for the last 10 mins or so. Meh. Anything that has a damsel-in-distress scene (especially if that scene involves sexual assault or attempts at it) pretty much automatically gets tossed out by me. I like the idea of a strong and smart doctor with a feisty alter ego, but the formula of a beautiful woman surrounded by regular men wearies me. Why can’t the doctor be ugly? Why is she sexualized throughout the film?

    Such was the feeling I got watching it. But I am very picky about anime. I like Miyazaki films. The last great series I watched was Twelve Kingdoms (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it), and it kind of spoiled me.

  9. bankuei:
    I might take you up on that but yeah there’s gonna have to be some warnin and some skipping ahead.

    I’ll give Paprika a try just to see but I get your points about the traditionally beautiful woman surrounded by regular men and it wearies me as well. Women are never allowed to be non-traditionally beautiful on film it simply doesn’t exist.

    Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll but Twelve Kingdoms on my netflix queue for sure.

  10. It’s a long series (45 eps) divided into arcs. It takes a little while to get good (and in the first part of the series I wanted to kick the main character — a lot), but the third story arc is fantastic. It has really strong, well-developed female characters forming the main cast, without any fan service, nekkid transformation scenes, or big-eyed shoujo love triangles. It’s also full of Japanese mythology, political intrigue, action, fantastical beasts.

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