Touki Bouki (The Hyena's Journey)

Dir: Djibril Diop Mambéty. 1973. Starring: Magaye Niang, Mareme Niang. French. Black Cinema/African Cinema/Foreign.
Touki Bouki (The Hyena's Journey)

Two poor, restless University students in Dakar (Mory and Anta) attempt to raise the funds to move to Paris in search of a better life. To accomplish this end, they engage in petty thievery and steal some expensive threads from a rich, gay fellow who's picked up Mory and taken him back to his palatial estate. In the process of raising funds they ride around on a motorcycle adorned with a cow's skull.

The tone is langourous and playful, similar to Godard's Pierrot Le Fou or Malick's Badlands. Unlike the didactic types in many of Mambéty's peers' films, Touki Bouki's protaganists are merely two characters in a diverse milieu which views neo-colonialism vs. African traditionalism with a fair amount of ambiguity. The visuals are pretty stunning too. There are a lot of shots of the heroes riding around the city and countryside on the aforementioned motorcyle and in a beautiful, customized Citroën 2CV. There are a lot of great threads and vibrant colors fill most of the stylishly composed frames.

The sophisticated and experimental film wowed international audience and it won awards at Cannes and the Moscow Film Festival and it made Mambéty a well-known figure in Third Cinema. However, the director waited twenty years before he made another feature, 1992's Hyènes which was only his second feature, as well as his last - he died a few years later from lung cancer. Everyone says Ousmane Sembene is the father of African Cinema; well, I guess that makes Mambéty the continent's Terrence Malick.

Posted by:
Eric Brightwell
Feb 23, 2008 3:51pm
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