Contras City & Badou Boy (1968/70, Djibril Diop Mambety)

Two by Djibril Diop Mambety

Contras City (1968)

Playful travelogue doc of Dakar. Strange, and the humor and political content are mostly lost on us, a couple continents and decades removed. Ubu says it’s considered Africa’s first comedy film.

Uncredited description of this film online:

Djibril Diop Mambety’s deeply ironic and biting commentary on the divided city that was Dakar in 1969: on the one hand, colonial, affluent and pompous, on the other, indigenous, poor but genuine.

Would make good marathon viewing with other wry short travel docs: Vigo’s À Propos de Nice, Varda’s Du Coté de la Côte, Lindsay Anderson’s O Dreamland, Ivens’s A Valparaíso, Marker’s Sunday in Peking.

Woman looking at French magazines at the newsstand:


Badou Boy (1970)

Adventures of the Badou Boy, a thief who helps run a bus service while dodging the ineffectual Officer Al. There’s also a blind musician, a hat-and-cane fancyman (played by the director) and Badou’s white-hatted buddy Moussa, who I think helps him escape Al at the end. Or maybe Badou is caught – there are flash-forwards, so I’m not always sure where we are.

Officer Al:

Voices are fully overdubbed. Music and effects and voices sometimes seem to be working against the picture, instead of with it. That’s not a complaint – since Contras City opens with a classy symphonic song which then warps and slows to a halt, it’s clear that Mambety is purposely screwing around with sound possibilities. It’s also clear that he’d been watching some French New Wave pictures.

Also playing with the camera – here focus is on the driver’s hand instead of Badou:

Our festival of Senegalese movies got stalled after this. Contras City made Katy sleepy, and she was having none of Badou Boy.

Maybe not as New-Wave-influenced as I thought… Mambety:

It’s the way I dream. To do that, one must have a mad belief that everything is possible–you have to be mad to the point of being irresponsible. Because I know that cinema must be reinvented, reinvented each time, and whoever ventures into cinema also has a share in its reinvention.

Mark Cousins:

[Its] sonic complexity, its state of the nation-ness, its Joycean wandering, its allegorical fun, convinced me that Badou Boy is undisputedly a lost classic. It is as important to African cinema as, say, Le Sang d’un poete is to French cinema – perhaps more so. It reveals the origins of the aesthetic confidence, the joy in mocking, filming and thinking that can be seen in Touki Bouki.

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