Cross-Cultural Film Guide/ Patricia Aufderheide
The American University/ ©1992
Plot: In a timeless preindustrial past, a mute young boy is found abandoned by a peddlar, who takes him back to the village. There the winsome child is adopted by the village and named "God's gift," or Wend Kuuni. When the child sees a corpse hanging from a tree, he remembers and we see in a series of flashbacks the series of tragedies that left him orphaned. After his father had disappeared while hunting,his mother refused to remarry (violating tradition) and was banished, dying and leaving her son alone. Without social context, the boy forgets how to speak.
The movie demonstrates how cooperation and caring can overcome bigotry and intolerance.
Style: Simply and charmingly told, the film uses a minimum of attention-getting filmic devices and attempts to mimic in film the storytelling traditions of the Mossi and the pace of African rural life.
Background on director/film: See Zan Boko. Further, it is important to note, as Howard University professor Mbye Cham did in the catalog for the Library of African Cinema, that Wend Kuuni was the first prominent feature film produced in Burkina Faso, and a pioneering attempt to "Africanize" film language. Dialog was kept at a minimum, to maximize understanding among different language groups.
Film production context: See Zan Boko.
Importance: Mbye Cham notes, "Wend Kuuni is one of the most universally accessible and immediately appealing of African films. Its influence on post 1982 African films, most noticeably his fellow Burkinabe Idrissa Ouedraogo's popular Yaaba (1989), has been enormous."
Further reading: See Zan Boko.