MAMBÉTY x 2
Djibril Diop Mambéty, whose Touki Bouki (1973) was a landmark in African cinema, and whose restored Hyenas (1992) Metrograph Pictures was proud to put back into circulation, completed few feature films in his too-short life—but Mambéty’s features tell only part of the story of this creative artist’s enormous accomplishment.
Two of the ambitious shorts—more accurately, medium-length films—that Mambéty completed in his final years help to give us a fuller picture of his rich social vision, his sly humor, his ingenuity, and the enormousness of world cinema’s loss after his passing.
Widespread hard times followed the French government’s devaluation of the West African CFA franc, but Mambéty spun tragedy into comedy in his lyrical Le Franc. A broke, congoma-playing shanty town musician, Marigo, imbued with Chaplinesque pathos by the comic actor Dieye Ma Dieye, relies on a lottery ticket and a lucky break to get his instrument out of hock. His troubles don’t end after he wins, however; having glued the ticket to his door, he has to take the entire door with him to cash in, heading off on a mishap-ridden journey across Dakar that will call for every bit of his quick-thinking inventiveness. “Some of the most fantastic, magic-realist moments in African cinema… So surreal it creates an African sublime.”—The Village Voice
The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun
Mambéty conceived Le Franc as the first part of an unfinished trilogy, to be titled Tales of Ordinary People, about the everyday people who he called “the only truly consistent, unaffected people in the world, for whom every morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential in themselves.” Mambéty only lived to complete the second film, The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun, which depicts Sili, a 12-year-old paraplegic who walks on crutches, daring to break into the all-male world of newspaper vending in Dakar, selling copies of the daily newspaper Le Soleil. In Mambéty’s concise fable, the city’s central marketplace represents the free-market law of the jungle, and the resourceful, empowered Sili proves a moral social force capable of resisting and changing it, representing the aspirations of a more self-reliant Africa. “A wondrously affirmative marketplace legend-cum-political allegory.”—The Village Voice
Restored in 2K in 2019 by Waka Films with the support of the Institut Français – Cinémathèque Afrique and the CNC at Éclair Laboratories from the original negative.
Metrograph Pictures releases.