In the tradition of the Griot - an oral storyteller who perpetuates the history of a village or family - Ndeysaan
is told in flashback by Amul, a now-elderly witness to the depicted events. The story takes place during Amul’s childhood in the Senegalese fishing village of Timberling, and as the flashback begins, the village is shrouded in a thick fog that will not lift. Baay Sogi, the village elder, lies on his deathbed, ready to pass the leadership to his hesitant son Mbanick. After Baay Sogi’s death, Mbanick enters a trance-like state and, in the film’s most visually startling sequence, frees himself of its hold by furiously chopping down the enormous tree under which Baay Sogi is buried. Mbanick carves a boat from the tree trunk, sets sail, and returns to shore days later with a huge cache of fish. The fog lifts, Mbanick is declared a hero, and the village is happy once again.
But not for long. Mbanick’s best friend, Yatma, is in love with Mbanick’s wife, Maxoye. In a fit of jealous rage, Yatma kills Mbanick and secretly dumps his body into the sea. The village mourns its lost hero and, although never publicly accusing Yatma of murder, shuns him. Soon after, Yatma proposes to Maxoye. She disdains Yatma but agrees to the marriage in order to punish him - for she is pregnant with Mbanick’s child, and reasons Yatma’s punishment will be raising a child he knows is not his own. For months Maxoye denies Yatma intimacy, even forbidding him to touch her. Yatma becomes a pariah in his home as well as his village.