“The reign of the hyenas has begun.”

The famously wealthy (“richer than the World Bank”) Linguère Ramatou is returning to her village of Colobane after 30 years away. The village has fallen on hard times lately, so is doing everything it can to impress her so she’ll leave a generous gift, including promise the upcoming mayoral “election” to shop-owner Dramaan Drameh, a former flame of Linguère’s.

Turns out she has returned to take revenge on Dramaan, who got her pregnant 30 years ago but wouldn’t marry her, leaving her exiled from town to become a prostitute. We don’t know how she became rich and renowned after this, but it doesn’t matter – she offers the town more money than they can spend if they’ll just agree to kill Dramaan for her. Everyone says aloud that this is absurd, that lives aren’t for sale and they’ll never agree to sacrifice the beloved Dramaan, but everyone starts stealing from his store, denying him privileges, following him around and not allowing him to leave town. The women, including Dramaan’s wife, stockpile modern appliances on credit and won’t answer when Dramaan asks them how they plan to pay the bill.

Dramaan leading the welcome party:

In the end, the townspeople tell themselves they’re enacting delayed justice, carrying out a sentence on Dramaan for his unfair treatment of 17-year-old Linguère Ramatou. Though they’re cynically murdering him for the money, at the behest of a bitter woman who tells her servants “The world turned me into a whore. I’ll make the world a whorehouse.”

Ramatou and her entourage:

Played Cannes in competition with The Long Day Closes, Fire Walk With Me and Simple Men. I guess I’ve seen all available Mambéty films… nothing more to look forward to. Based on a popular Swiss play also adapted by Bernhard Wicki (with Ingrid Bergman) and about ten others.

California Newsreel:

Hyènes was conceived as the second installment, following on Touki Bouki, of a trilogy on power and insanity. The grand theme, once again, is human greed. As Mambety himself observed, the story shows how neocolonial relations in Africa are “betraying the hopes of independence for the false promises of Western materialism,” and how Africans have been corrupted by that materialism … After unleashing this pessimistic vision of humanity and society, Mambety began a trilogy of short films about “little people,” whom he called “the only true, consistent, unaffected people in the world, for whom every morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential to themselves.”

The director, playing an ex-judge now working for Ramatou:


The hyena comes out only at night … He is a liar, the hyena. The hyena is a permanent presence in humans, and that is why man will never be perfect. The hyena has no sense of shame, but it represents nudity, which is the shame of human beings.

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.

Congoma-player Marigo hasn’t paid the rent in a few months, so his landlady (the griot from Touki Bouki) has confiscated his instrument until he pays up.

With no way to earn a living, Marigo buys a lotto ticket from an optimistic dwarf acquaintance.

Marigo has got the winning number… but he pasted the ticket to his front door behind a poster of Yadikoon (“an African robin hood”), so he has to take the whole door to the lottery office.

…along the way, dreaming of the rich life…

…only to be told that the ticket needs to be detached from the door to be authorized.

So Marigo makes a run for the beach and uses the pounding surf to remove the ticket, dancing and dreaming on the rocks, losing his poster but getting the ticket off successfully, screaming ecstatic laughter.

I pretty much loved it.

“We have sold our souls cheaply!“, Mambety concludes, though he never described himself as a political director. Yet his films always refer to the economic reality of his country, which is entirely dependent on the World Bank, monetary funds and French economic policy. This is true for his last two films. They were part of a trilogy on “The story of small people.” “Le Franc” and “La petite vendeuse de soleil” are from parables on the lives of people who must ask themselves the same question every morning, namely how to gather the most fundamentally necessary means to survive. The small people in this trilogy are the counterparts to the greed of the hyenas in his longer feature films.”

“Mambéty introduces the trenchant idea that the power of the imagination to raise post-colonial African consciousness does not exist in fanciful, but ultimately empty, idle dreams or wistfully dwelling over a lost – and stolen – noble past (a theme that is also articulated in Jean-Marie Téno’s films, as well as Ousmane Sembene’s Borom Sarret), but in a certain wide-eyed innocence and naïve determination that recovery and advancement are still possible with dedicated effort.”

California Newsreel:
“In both films there are conspicuous references to Yadikoon, a semi-legendary figure who in popular memory became a kind of Senegalese Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. In Le Franc, the main character, Marigo has a poster of Yadikoon in his room. Mambety himself named a foundation he established for Dakar’s street children after Yadikoon.”

The only hits I get from “Yadikoon” on google are from articles on these films, so either he’s a Mambety-created character or we are all spelling his name wrong.

Also watched “Echek” again, fun little flick by Adan Jodorowsky:

IMDB says it’s “believed to be Africa’s first avant-garde film”. Think it’s the earliest African film I’ve seen period other than the not-so-avant-garde Black Girl & Borom Sarret.

It’s a semi-comic story of horned-motorcycle-drivin’ Mory and his college student girlfriend Anta riding around Dakar, Senegal looking to steal enough money to get them to the paradise that is Paris. After successfully robbing a gay rich dude and unsuccessfully robbing a wrestling match, she boards the boat but he is overcome by nationalistic cow-related panic and runs back into town. There’s a woman “Aunt Oumy”, local griot, yells at them, they imagine returning to town rich and famous, Oumy singing for them. I did kinda like it even though I don’t have much to say about it.

Rosenbaum says “one of the greatest of all African films and almost certainly the most experimental … 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.”

From wikipedia, Mambety “sought to expose the diversity of real life”, and his “editing and narrative style are a confluence of the ancient griotic tradition of tribal storytelling and modern avant-garde techniques. Mambéty was interested in transforming conflicting, mixed elements into a usable African culture, and in his words, reinvent[ing] cinema.”

Shortly before he died, Mambety was asked what he would do next. “I will finish the third part of the trilogy about ordinary people. After that, I will make Malaika, the third part of the trilogy about the power of craziness. The first two were Touki Bouki and Hyènes. Then I will consult God about the state of the world.”

Sex on the beach:

Wild child in a tree:

Griot in a riot:

Fantasy riches:

Also watched Episodes from the Life of Jekyll and Hyde by Paul Bush, a few-minute piece using the soundtrack to one (or a few) Jekyll & Hyde movie and ultra-fast-cutting two actors together into some kind of stop-motion nightmare… where the Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb meets Alone, Life Wastes Andy Hardy. Cool.



Cute fable about a crippled girl (with blind mom) who wants to sell newspapers. Gang of boys makes throat-slitting gestures at her, shoves her off pier and steals her crutch, but never sells any papers themselves. Very good looking movie. Katy had seen it before.

Girl Who Sold The Sun