This 1973 first feature by Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety is one of the greatest of all African films and almost certainly the most experimental. Beautifully shot and strikingly conceived, it follows the comic misadventures of a young motorcyclist and former herdsman (Magaye Niang) who gets involved in petty crimes in Dakar during an attempt to escape to Paris with the woman he loves (Mareme Niang). The title translates as “Hyena’s Voyage,” and among the things that make this film so interesting stylistically are the fantasy sequences involving the couple’s projected images of themselves in Paris and elsewhere. – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader Continue reading Djibril Diop Mambéty – Touki Bouki AKA Journey of the Hyena (1973)
A successful, middle-aged businessman named El Hadj Abdoukader Beye (Thierno Leye) has reached the pinnacle of the economic elite by participating in a native revolt against colonialist authorities and, along with his colleagues, seized control of the chamber of commerce. Despite the newly convened commerce board’s altruistic declarations for establishing compassionate socialism, rampant corruption and abuse of power become immediately apparent as the board members are individual handed money-laden briefcases by an inscrutable and reticent Western businessman. Beye uses the jovial atmosphere to remind the board that his marriage ceremony to his third, and significantly younger co-wife, Ngone (Dieynaba Niang), is already in progress (ironically, despite his absence) and extends an invitation for the afternoon wedding reception at his recently purchased third home. On the way to the reception, Beye stops by the home of his first wife, Adja (Seune Samb), in order to prepare for the wedding festivities, and encounters his independent and outspoken university-aged daughter, Rama (Miriam Niang), who expresses her disapproval for her father’s third marriage by encouraging her mother to seek a divorce. Beye attempts to justify his actions by appealing to her sense of cultural pride, hypocritically commenting that the practice of polygamy was an ancestral religious practice even before the appearance of colonialists. In order to keep peace within the family and maintain a cordial, social appearance, Adja agrees to accompany Beye along with his second wife, Oumi (Younouss Seye), to the wedding reception, where the two women soon find themselves awkwardly out of place in their co-wife’s new marital home, and eager for an expedient excuse to leave. Meanwhile, despite his insistence on their non-necessity, Beye is encouraged by his friends to consume superstitious concoctions in order to ensure a successful wedding night. However, on the following morning, his anxious and interfering new mother-in-law pays a visit only to find that Beye was unable to consummate the marriage. Convinced that his affliction was caused by an unidentified person’s xala (curse of sexual impotence), Beye abandons everything in an obsessive search for a cure. Continue reading Ousmane Sembene – Xala (1975)
Soriba Samb (Oumar Diop Makena) is a Senegalese who has just received a much sought after internship to study filmmaking in Paris. In this story, Soriba heads to Paris, accompanied by the five-year old son of a friend who he believes to be still living in Paris. On arrival he struggles to find the boy’s father. In addition to coping with his new internship, Soriba has to also spend time tracking down the boy’s father ‘Issa’. Soriba eventually finds ‘Issa’ but only to discover that he is running a prostitution ring and actually has no intention of leaving Paris. This is deeply disturbing to Soriba as the fate of the young boy now hangs squarely in the balance. Soriba sets out to change this and invokes the spirits of his ancestors to transform ‘Issa’s’ wayward living so he can care for his son and return to Senegal.
1991: Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film: Golden Bayart for Best Actor Continue reading Moussa Touré – Toubab Bi (1991)
La Petite Vendeuse du Soleil (the Girl who sold the Sun) follows the life of a young girl who moves from her village to Dakar – having permanently lost the use of one of her legs, the only job she can do, is beg on the streets. One day however she sees boys selling Le Soleil, a national newspaper. Although no girls do that job, she manages to convince those in charge to give her a try… But can she survive in a cut-throat world where only aggression pays off? Offering a loving vision of modern day Dakar, Diop-Mambety takes us through all of the highs and lows of the sprawling city. His gentle, tender touch is evident but the tone doesn’t become sickly sweet with the film ending as realistically as it honestly could. Continue reading Djibril Diop Mambéty – La Petite vendeuse de soleil AKA The little girl who sold the Sun (1999)
“It’s possible that a good half of the greatest African movies ever made are the work of novelist-turned-filmmaker Ousmane Sembene (Black Girl, Xala, Ceddo). Camp Thiaroye (1988), cowritten and codirected by Thierno Faty Sow, recounts an incident that occurred in 1944. Returning from four years of European combat in the French army, Senegalese troops are sent to a transit camp, where they have to contend with substandard food and other indignities. An intellectual sergeant major (Ibrahima Sane) gets thrown out of a local bordello when he goes there for a drink; mistaken for an American soldier, he’s arrested and beaten by American MPs, which provokes his men into kidnapping an American GI. Then when the Senegalese troops discover that they’re about to be cheated out of half their back pay, they launch a revolt. Continue reading Ousmane Sembene – Camp de Thiaroye AKA The Camp at Thiaroye (1987)
A money order from a relative in Paris throws the life of a Senegalese family man out of order. He deals with corruption, greed, problematic family members, the locals and the changing from his traditional way of living to a more modern one.
From Time Out:
A political film criticising the type of bureaucracy that has arisen in post-colonial Senegal. A money order is sent to an unemployed, illiterate relative by a hard-working lad seeking his fortune in Paris. But all attempts to cash the money order are frustrated: the man’s illiteracy and ignorance of finance allow him to be exploited by those with education. The power is in the hands of the clerks and intellectuals, who use their knowledge for private advantage. Although the film can be criticised for the relative gentleness of its attack, Sembene succeeds in pointing up the divisiveness created by the colonial heritage. The French-colonised elite are now busy oppressing and colonising their own people. Shot in Wolof, the local language, the film asserts Senegalese culture against the rapacious way of the West. Not surprisingly it proved popular with the ‘people’, but was ignored by the bourgeois when originally released. Continue reading Ousmane Sembene – Mandabi AKA The Money Order (1968)