Both an adaptation of Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s satire The Visit (1956) and a spiritual sequel to Touki Bouki, Mambéty’s rich allegory unfolds in the village of Kolobane, the director’s birthplace and that of the wealthy, worldly Linguère Ramatou, who left it long ago, forced into a life of dissolution and suffering that happened to pay off financially. Her much-anticipated return elicits an exultant response from Kolobane’s desperate populace, whose dreams of opulence suddenly afflict them with a selective memory and a malleable moral compass. It is Mambéty himself—as Ramatou’s newly appointed Chief Justice—who outlines the part local shopkeep Dramaan Drameh played in her downfall, fatally sentencing him while granting the town riches beyond their wildest dreams. Ramatou’s cruel, conditional “gift” pulls the curtain back on capitalism—exposing the essential dynamic within a society centered around money and material accumulation.
The only character conscious of the depths of this spiritual crisis is the guilty man himself, Dramaan, whose sacrificial status allows him to palpably comprehend the injustice. Vividly illustrated in a Touki Bouki-esque magical reality with potent iconography—Ramatou’s golden prosthetics are particularly striking—Hyenas both encapsulates and transcends the complexity of the postcolonial African experience. In the words of film scholar Clyde Taylor, “[Hyenas] is singular in leaving no ideological or sociological space for any viewer to hide, African or foreign, black or white, female or male, in witnessing the moral crisis of contemporary humanity from an African viewpoint.”