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Yaaba (1989)

A small African village. The story focuses on Bila, a ten year old boy who befriends an old woman, Sana. Everybody calls her 'Witch' but Bila himself calls her 'Yaaba' (grandmother). When ... See full summary »


Idrissa Ouedraogo
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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The story of a shepherd's single handed quest to re-forest a barren valley.

Director: Frédéric Back
Stars: Philippe Noiret, Christopher Plummer


Complete credited cast:
Fatimata Sanga Fatimata Sanga ... Yaaba
Noufou Ouédraogo Noufou Ouédraogo ... Bila
Roukietou Barry Roukietou Barry ... Nopoko
Adama Ouédraogo Adama Ouédraogo ... Kougri
Amadé Toure Amadé Toure ... Tibo
Sibidou Ouédraogo Sibidou Ouédraogo ... Poko
Adame Sidibe Adame Sidibe ... Razougou
Rasmané Ouédraogo Rasmané Ouédraogo ... Noaga (as Rasmane Ouedraogo)
Kinda Moumouni Kinda Moumouni ... Finse
Assita Ouedraogo Assita Ouedraogo ... Koudi
Zenabou Ouedraogo Zenabou Ouedraogo ... Pegda
Ousmane Sawadogo Ousmane Sawadogo ... Taryam


A small African village. The story focuses on Bila, a ten year old boy who befriends an old woman, Sana. Everybody calls her 'Witch' but Bila himself calls her 'Yaaba' (grandmother). When Bilas cousin Nopoko gets sick it is Sana's medicine who saves her. Written by Mattias Thuresson

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Drama | Family


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Release Date:

6 October 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Babcia See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Official submission of Burkina Faso for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 62th Academy Awards in 1990. See more »


Featured in A Story of Children and Film (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Lost: Yaaba's emotion. If found, please return to Ouedraogo.
21 June 2009 | by Andy (film-critic)See all my reviews

Get those negative clicks out kiddies; this isn't going to be as optimistic…

"Yaaba" is one of those simplistic powerful films. It creates a strong juxtaposition between the youth of Africa and the less-wise elders, which should leave the average viewer hours of contemplation and possible discussion. It is a film that should be pondered and probably re-watched (if found) over time, yet the strength to watch this mere 90 minute feature seemed to escape me. To repeat, "Yaaba" is a powerful film and the overall message of friendship and fear, coupled with adult incompetence is tremendous – yet I cannot stand behind this film. I believe in this film, but, alas, it is not one I could recommend to friends or even begin to watch again. "Yaaba" was a singular experience, served cold.

"Yaaba" failed to compete with others of this nature for several reasons. The first being the lacking plot, and missed exposure to outside elements. As an amateur viewer to African cinema, perhaps this wasn't the best film to begin, but knowing the simplicity of the story – there was an eagerness to dive in. Yet, it provided no background or reasons. When one watches "Yaaba", the exiled woman is already in place, the married drunk is already in place, and the rival children are … well … already in place. As viewers, we are not handed anything to begin our journey nor to discover – it handed right to us without reason or recourse. This was bothersome because it didn't allow each character to become something different – the elder was always scorned, the men were always right, and the children created their own world outside of all of this. A brief introduction to these characters, not necessarily about the region itself, would have helped secure the power behind each character. Bila was a likable character, but why did he befriend. What was in his persona that allowed him to do that? Then the knife-cut on his cousin Nopoko was never suspected, forcing us to befriend Bila's decisions instead of discovering a sense of community. The village was doing everything possible, yet we feel frustration towards them – is that right?

Director Ouedraogo does a decent job of working within the lines, but it feels that we are forced into one direction, without allowing the audience to "fall emotionally" with anyone in the film. When the dramatic moment near the end is finally revealed, it felt needed, not surprising or tear-jerking. This is an emotional film. The characters are in place to provide involvement from the viewer, but it feels like it isn't allowed. This is point A to point B to point C storytelling, which works, but for this film it just felt static. Again, I cannot stress the idea that "Yaaba" was a great visual story, the images of the land, the use of uniform colors kept with the social standing, but the emotion just felt drained from the canvas. The music was bold, the images were contextual, but nothing about what the characters did mattered. "Yaaba" was a structured film, and thus the Earthy nature could not fully be conceived.

To close, I did like "Yaaba" for the ability to see stories from other countries of the world, but in retrospect I just couldn't feel the actions of our characters. I wanted to fall for Bila's decision, I wanted to cheer for his defiance, I wanted to tear up with Nopoko was ill – but it never happened. That is the biggest disappointment for this film. I understand the symbolism, the idea that children are smarter than adults, and so forth – but it never reached that next level. It never became identifiable. I wasn't able to connect to this film. A personal sentiment, but for future viewers, be forewarned. New Yorker Video (now debunked) did a great job of a VHS release, but it cannot come close to creating the much needed emotion lacking from Ouedraogo's feature.

Grade: ** out of *****

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