Monday, August 15, 2016

Touki Bouki

Written and directed by Djibril Diop Mambety, Touki Bouki (The Journey of the Hyena) is the story of two lovers who try to leave Dakar, Senegal for France as they embark into a journey filled with trials and tribulations. The film is a look into the world that is Africa and two lovers’ desire for a better life. Starring Magaye Niang and Marame Niang. Touki Bouki is a whimsical and entrancing film from Dijbril Diop Mambety.

Set in the port city of Dakar and nearby rural areas, the film follows the life of a couple who want to escape the poverty of their home and do whatever it takes to go to Paris for a better life. It’s a film that has a simple story yet it is told in a very whimsical and surreal fashion as it play into a couple trying to find a better life amidst the chaos of their homeland. The film’s screenplay doesn’t really have much of a plot as it mainly follows these two people who are trying to live their life but don’t really live by the rule of conventional society in their rural environment. They do whatever they can to get money and leave Senegal as there is this element in the third act that does play into a sense of surrealism but also that blur of fantasy and reality. Especially as it play into what these two want and what would they do if they do reach that dream.

Djibril Diop Mambety’s direction is very ravishing for the way he presents Dakar and its rural environment as if it is set in a world that is foreign but also kind of modern. Presented in this cinema verite style that definitely owes a lot to the aesthetics of the French New Wave, Mambety’s direction has this sense of energy and looseness. The usage of handheld cameras as well as creating that sense of repetition as it play into what is real and what is fantasy. Mambety’s compositions in its usage of close-ups as well as these gorgeous wide and medium shots of the location play into the beauty of Dakar as it is this intoxicating and vibrant world that exciting. Even in its rural area that is based on a more traditional idea of Africa as it crosses into something that is modern as it play into a clash of ideals and roots of what these two characters want. Notably in the third act as it is quite surreal into what happens when these two characters are given the things they want and that chance to leave Senegal but there is also that conflict of identity of who they are and what they’re going to leave. Overall, Mambety creates a rapturous film about a couple trying to leave Senegal for Paris.

Cinematographer George Bracher does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and gorgeous cinematography as it has this vibrancy to the look of the locations with its beautiful colors as well as the way the sun shines on a shot or in a location. Editor Siro Asteni does amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts that play into its energy as well as its air of surrealism. Set/costume designer Aziz Diop Mambety does excellent work with the look of some of the places the characters go to including the home of a rich man as well as the clothes they would wear in the third act. The film’s music consists of songs sung by Josephine Baker, Mado Robin, and Aminata Fall as it play into that air of fantasy but also reality as it has songs that are upbeat but also melancholic about what these characters go through.

The film’s fantastic cast include a couple of notable small roles from the famed African singer Aminata Fall as the aunt of the young woman and Ousseynou Diop as a rich friend of theirs named Charlie. The phenomenal performances of Magaye and Mareme Niang in their respective roles as Mory and Anta as this young couple who are dealing with their need to escape poverty with the former already running a major debt with the latter feeling ostracized for not wanting to play by the rules as both of them want something to live for but later become conflicted in their journey of escape.

Touki Bouki is a phenomenal film from Djibril Diop Mambety. Featuring a great cast, amazing music, and loads of style in its visual presentation, it’s a film that isn’t just one of the quintessential films of African cinema but also world cinema as it showcases a world that is just ravishing to watch. In the end, Touki Bouki is a spectacular film from Djibril Diop Mambety.

Djibril Diop Mambety Films: (Contras’city) - (Badou Boy) - (Parlons Grand-mere) - (Hyenes) - (Le Franc) - (La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil)

© thevoid99 2016


Brittani Burnham said...

This sounds like something I'd enjoy. I've never heard of it. I'll have to search around for it since it's not on Netflix. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

I'd suggest Hulu. I think they might have it or just save some money and get the World Cinema box set from Criterion. It is a must-see as I think it's a damn good introduction to African cinema.