Film Review: Yao
By Tola Ositelu
Seydou Tall (Omar Sy) is going back to his roots. The French-Senegalese actor returns to his country of origin to promote his new book. 12-year old Yao (Lionel Louis Basse) is determined to meet his icon, even if that means skipping school and hitching car and train rides from his remote village all the way to Dakar.
Impressed by Yao’s gumption – and missing his own son back in France – Tall takes the youngster under his wing. He decides on a whim to personally escort Yao back to his hometown. Thus proceeds an inter-generational, cross-cultural road movie on which Tall contends with the heat, Yao’s relentless curiosity, various culture shocks and his own sense of disconnect.
Produced by and starring Franco-African golden boy Sy, Yao is an understated, semi-autobiographical elegy to the West African region. One that isn’t solely concerned with megalopoli nor has an unhealthy fascination with misery-porn stereotypes. Ordinary people live ordinary lives in a particular cultural context. There are no grand plot twists or overwrought epiphanies. Just a feel-good, at times bitter-sweet love letter from the perspective of the ‘lost’ children of the Diaspora, tentatively forging links with their ancestral home.