Cisse is considered one of Africa's most interesting directors. Most of his films are designed so that his Malian and African audiences can interact with the film; they contain characters, settings, references, and open-ended situations that the audience must solve for themselves. A life-long movie buff, Cisse studied film, organized film screenings, and worked as a projectionist and a photographer before spending eight years in Moscow where he learned the art of filmmaking from prominent Soviet directors. His debut African film, Den Muso, was released in 1975. His 1987 feature film, Yeleen, a film full of imagery and atmosphere, is the story of a young man's search for power and knowledge through his elders. The film won the "Prix du Jury" at that year's Cannes Film Festival.