Living in a small West African village are the boy Bila (Noufou Ouédraogo) and his girlfriend Nopoko (Roukietou Barry). Their days are spent on the lush savannah – where they blissfully occupy themselves by fetching water for their parents, playing hide-and-seek and swimming. As time passes by, tension begins to brew in the nearby village. A pretty woman married to an alcoholic is having a shameless affair!
But this is where director Idrissa Ouedraogo’s film departs from the narrative design of so many other similar African stories. He doesn’t judge the alcoholic, who seems to make a lot of sense in his endless diatribe of the immeasurable immorality of his wife's treachery. As the tension mounts and uneasiness creeps into the once calm village, young Bila becomes increasingly fascinated by Sana, the ancient woman who lives like a hermit on the outskirts of the village. Called a witch by the villagers, Bila affectionately names her 'Yaaba', or grandmother.
The villagers’ prejudice undergoes an acid test when Bila's friend Nopoko falls desperately ill. Will the villagers send for Western medicine or will they allow Yaaba, the witch to treat Nopoko? Yaaba is a typical realist film. Its unobtrusive form allows the camera to 'wander' through the village like an impartial observer, taking in an earthy mix of sex and chickens. This makes the characters sympathetic and creates a strongly humanistic impression. Beautifully shot, this film is as timeless as an African fable.
1989: Cannes Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize
1989: Tokyo International Film Festival: Golden Award
1989: FESPACO: Best Music & Audience Award