Djibril Diop Mambety

7.2 Touki Bouki/ The Journey of the Hyena (1973)

Djibril Diop Mambety (Senegal, 1945) made only two films.

Touki Bouki/ The Journey of the Hyena (1973) is an allegory of the emigrant's contradictory impulses, towards the dream of a foreign paradise and the cultural roots that bind him forever to his native land. The student who has attended university is the one who can emancipate herself from those roots. The lazy street thief and scammer is more attached to that land of cowherds than he realized.

The film opens with children leading a herd to a slaugherhouse and then with harrowing details of the animals being slaughtered. Then we see one of the children returning to the village and we see a man on a motorcycle riding away and he has a bull's skull on the motorcycle. Then we descent into a shantytown. Then we hear a muezzin praying to Allah as the camera wanders around the town. We see a mailman deliver mail. A woman is selling her vegetables on a little table. A neighbor picks some and complains that her son is not writing from France. She promises to pay when her husband returns but the daughter of the seller steps in angrily complaining that this has been going on for too long but her own mother doesn't want any argument with an old friend. The daughter is wearing pants. She asks her mother to tell Mory to meet her at the university, so she's a student. Her mother complains that she doesn't like this Mory, a jobless kid who rides around in a motorcycle with a bull's skull on it. The two old women remark that the university looks like a freak show. We then see women fighting for water. When a man tries to stop them, they join forces against him. Meanwhile the mailman completes her routine and walks away. We then see a group of students on a jeep driving around. They stop Mory, who begs them to let him go because he has to pick up Anta, but instead they capture him like an animal and parade him around town in their jeep. Then we see a man killing a lamb and Anta stripping and leaning on it with a smile on her face. Anta goes to her aunt Oumy and asks about Mory. Her aunt starts laughing like a demon and shouts that Mory threw himself over the cliff. Anta runs down to the shore while we keep seeing images of the sacrificial lamb. We hear her crying. Then we see Mory and Anta on a cliff, planning to leave on a boat to Europe as illegal immigrants. The problem is that Mory has debts, no money to pay for the journey. Then they ride away in Mory's motorcycle and they almost hit a woman, who curses Mory, who has not paid his debts. A crowd watches as a man plays the three-card game. Mory tries his luck but of course he loses. He runs away instead of paying and is chased by the crowd. When they reunited in a wrestling arena, she mentions that that arena makes loads of money on sundays and he wonders where they keep the money. Then we see one such wrestling match. Mory steals a blue trunk, convinced that it contains the money, and rides away in his motorcycle, already dreaming of Paris. They load the trunk on a taxi and Anta takes the taxi to a desolate place by the sea. The driver has to stop the taxi where the road ends and then haul the trunk on his head. An explosion scares him and he drops the trunk, revealing that it contains a skeleton. Mory and Anta are now enjoying the beach. There's a abandoned ship anchored not far from there. Mory immediately starts dreaming of fixing the boat and sailing to France. They visit a rich gay, Charlie, who has a swimming pool by the sea. He is rude to Anta but nice to Mory, an old friend. The rich man invites Mory into his villa. While the rich man is taking a shower, Mory steals his nice clothes. Outside Anta is also stealing, from a bag that someone hung on a rock. Mory and Anta hop on the man's car and tell the chaffeur to drive them. Mory sits in the car, strips naked and stands up, enjoying the ride and imagining that he and Anta are entering the capital like dignitaries, escorted by a caravan of cars, and greeted by an enthusiastic crowd. Meanwhile, Anta rides the motorcycle and is attacked by a crazy savage. And meanwhile Charlie calls the chief of police, inspector Mambety, and reports the theft of clothes and of the car, but Charlie wastes time flirting with the inspector. Mory and Anta, wearing fancy attires, walk into a travel agency and buy tickets to France. Charlie's chaffeur is still driving them around in his car. They drive to the port, where they even pick up a man who is wanted for his debts by another man who is armed with a baseball bat. On the ship two snobbish white people (a man and a woman) are discussing communism, African art,. The ship is almost ready to sail. Anta boards but Mory senses that it is a trap and starts running away. We see images of the animals being captured to be slaughtered. Mory runs out of the port and in the streets of the city. Meanwhile, the savage who stole the motorcycle is riding into town. And Anta is calmly waiting on the deck of the ship. Then we see an ambulance picking up the savage who has been kicked out of the motorcycle, and Mory walking away with his bull skull while the motorcycle lies destroyed on the asphalt. He sits on the steps of a staircase while the mailman passes by to perform his daily ritual. The big white ship sails away. Anta leaves for France but Mory, after all, is unable to. The last images are of previous scenes: Mory and Anta on the cliff, staring at the sea; and the child leading the beasts to the slaughterhouse.

Hyenes (1992) is an adaptation of Friedrich Duerrenmatt's play "The Visit".

Mambety died in 1998 of cancer.

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