Rebel With A Cause: Director Djibril Diop Mambéty
In 1992, Mambety returned to the limelight with an ambitious new Hyènes (Hyenas). It was an adaption of the Swiss-German writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s satirical play The Visit (1956). Mambety’s authorial voice is strong and clear in Hyènes; as one critic observed, the uniqueness of the direction throughout the “undoubtedly stems in part from his own magisterial sense of presence.” 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. Linguère Ramatou, a wealthy woman who returns from abroad to the desolate village of Colobane, her birthplace and Mambety’s as well. Many years before, she had been seduced by a young man, impregnated, and abandoned for a wealthier wife; she was then mercilessly ostracized by her neighbors. Now “as rich as the World Bank,” Linguère offers lavish gifts and huge sums of money to the villagers— in exchange for the death of her onetime lover. They accept the deal, and Mambety makes it easy for us to see why.
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” (see the California Newsreel Web site at www.newsreel.org). Le franc (1994), a comedy about a poor musician who wins the lottery, exposes the havoc wrought upon the people of Senegal by France’s devaluation of the West African franc (CFA). Mambety was editing the second in the trilogy, La Petite Vendeuse De Soleil (The little girl who sold the sun), at the time of his death.
Contrast-City/ A City of Contrasts (1968)
Badou Boy (1970), Silver Tanit Carthage 70 Film Festival
Touki Bouki/ Le voyage de l’hyene/ The Journey of the Hyena (1973), International Critic’s Prize Moscow Film Festival 1973
Parlons, grand-mere/ Let’s Talk, Granny (1989)
Hyenes/ Hyenas (1992) Le Franc (1994), Gold Tanit Carthage Film Festival
Sources: Questioning African Cinema: Conversations with Filmmakers, Russell, Sharon A. Guide to African Cinema