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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This week at SFC - Touki Bouki-The Journey of the Hyena

BUILDING 7 (back stairs)
FERNANDES INDUSTRIAL CENTRE
EASTERN MAIN ROAD
LAVENTILLE
PORT OF SPAIN


Our screenings are FREE and all are welcome.


doors open 7:30 - film starts 8:15

You are welcome to STAY LATE for our weekly post filmclub lime... music by this week's guest selector - artist Chris Ofili

STUDIOFILMCLUB is pleased to present our second showing by the Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty. Last year SFC screened Hyènes made twenty years after tonight's screening: TOUKI BOUKI.

Djibril Diop Mambéty

Born 1945, Senegal - Died 1998, Paris (lung cancer)

Born the son of a Muslim cleric in Colobane, near Dakar, Senegal, Djibril Diop Mambéty received no formal training in filmmaking. He experimented with theater, but in 1968, he was asked to leave an avant-garde theater group. Shortly thereafter, he made his first film short called Badou Boy (1970), which dealt with the life of a young renegade. By 1973, he directed his first feature, Touki Bouki (1973), about disaffected youth, and it became an instant classic. It would be nearly twenty years before he would create another film, Hyènes (1992), which is considered a sequel to "Touki Bouki" and a parable based on the classic play "The Visit" by Frederich Durrenmatt. Although his films were considered to be politically oriented, Mambéty rejected the realism preferred by most African filmmakers. His films were notable for their dream-like quality that left the themes of his films entirely to the interpretation of the viewer; this was, of course, the desired effect. In spite of the fact that Mambéty only completed a few short films and a meager two full-length features, the quality of his short body of work has rendered him legendary status among African filmmakers and, indeed, the international film community.

tonight's short film

DENKO (Mohamed Camara/Guinea/1992/20')

Set in a small African village this mystical tale explores the taboo subject of incest, ritual healing, sexuality and tradition.

followed by the FEATURE

TOUKI BOUKI (Djibril Diop Mambéty/Senegal/1973/86')


In Wolof with English subtitles.

"Paris, Paris, Paris!" sings Josephine Baker on a scratchy recording that we hear a number of times on Touki Bouki's soundtrack. "You're a kind of Paradise on Earth!"

How many young Africans have dreamed of leaving their homes or villages to make their fortunes in the City of Lights? We could substitute "London" for Paris, or "New York," "Miami," or "L.A."; each would work equally well. These cities have served as magnets for generations of hungry dreamers willing to do almost anything to gain access to a mythical land of opportunity, of modernity.

Touki Bouki tells a familiar, universal story--a pair of lovers who will do just about anything to escape the slums of Dakar. Mory, the young man, has come to Dakar searching for a better life than he had as a village shepherd. He cruises around Dakar on his noisy motorcyle whose handlebars are adorned with a zebu's skull and horns and whose seat bears what looks like a traditional fetish of some sort. Dakar is obviously a disappointment to him, and he concludes that his journey needs to be taken further; he will need to leave the continent entirely, cross over the sea to Europe.

Mory seduces Anta, a young university student, with his schemes to raise money to book passage to France. At first, things don't go too smoothly. Together they try to steal the gate-money at a wrestling contest, only to discover that they have stolen a fetish by mistake. Mory finally resorts to hustling and robbing a gay man named Charlie. Dressed in Charlie's fancy clothes and riding in his car (which looks like a mobile American flag), Mory makes his way in a surreal ticker-tape parade down the streets of Dakar, with Anta beside him, to the docks and the boat that will take them to Paris. Yet something continues to hold him back, to prevent his escape.

Djibril Diop Mambety made Touki Bouki, based on his own story and script, with a budget of $30,000 (obtained in part from the Senegalese government) and a group of nonprofessional actors. It was edited in Rome and Paris and won a number of awards in Europe, including the Special Jury's Award at the Moscow Film Festival and was chosen as part of the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.

Stylistically, Touki Bouki has an avant-garde quality that links it to other films of the early Seventies (it makes me think of Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baaadasss Song). In any case, it is unlike most of the films previously made in Africa. Rather than use a simple, straightforward chronological narrative, it includes scenes that are deliberately disturbing and confusing (e.g., animals being slaughtered, a wild child who lives in a baobab tree) and leaves it to us to make sense of them. Its editing style is frequently experimental in style: it will cut between two apparently unrelated events and allow us to interpret the connection, or it will repeat the same shots or edit a scene out of sequence. Touki Bouki also uses its soundtrack to disrupt the illusion of realism, distancing us from the story and causing us to ponder its meaning even as we watch it.

The film's title--Journey of the Hyena--points to Mory as a marginal scavenger, both ludicrous and destructive. It is up to the audience to decide just what kind of journey Mory has undertaken, and where it will wind up.

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