Reflecting on his award-winning film Yeelen in a 1988 interview with Manthia Diawara, Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé posits that the Malian viewer’s recognition of the film’s layered meanings makes the film “incredibly exciting.” Cissé contrasts this spectator to the American, French, or British viewer, for whom he concludes “the film is perceived literally.” With this comparison, Cissé suggests that Malian viewers access greater meaning and better understand the film’s content than other spectators. Indeed, people and places in the film would be familiar to Malian spectators. Cissé relied on Malian actors to make Yeelen, and he filmed them in different parts of the country. But the film premiered at the 1987 Festival de Cannes, where it reached international audiences and won the Prix de Jury. The film subsequently circulated broadly in Europe, North America, and Asia. Yeelen screened in African theaters, too, including in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali. The film’s legibility for Malian viewers varies. In this paper, I draw on published interviews with Cissé, production materials for Yeelen, film reviews, other documentation, including unpublished transcripts gathered for the making of a 1991 documentary on Cissé, and recent interviews with members of the film crew. I demonstrate that while Cissé highlights the Malian viewer’s response to Yeelen, he produced the film with disparate audiences in mind. In addition, audiences in disparate places responded unevenly to the film. Attention to these responses offers fresh possibilities for understanding the film.