Touki Bouki

Recently Restored
Directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty.
With Magaye Niang, Mareme Niang, Cristophe Colomb.
Senegal, 1973, DCP, color, 88 min.
Wolof and French with English subtitles.
DCP source: Janus Films

Translated as The Hyena’s Journey, Mambéty’s dazzling debut feature about two modern lovers—attempting to swindle their way to Paris from Dakar—is as mischievous as its protagonists, upending any attempts to reduce it to any particular cinematic categorization. His complex, fragmented and multidimensional approach eschews the limitations of a dominant narrative arc (or hierarch)—perhaps since all of those have been designated by the colonizers. Instead, as Mory and Anta’s lost souls recklessly navigate Dakar’s disrupted, disjointed postcolonial limboland, the film travels through irony, allegory, political parody, internal dreamstate—often balancing multiple modes simultaneously. With an occasionally off-kilter camera, lyrical jump-cutting, amusingly effective “magical” editing, an ingeniously disparate soundtrack and all variations of mythical, marginal and undefinable characters, Touki Bouki is a startlingly unique cinematic hybrid, actively resisting voyeuristic exoticization, avant-garde pretension or moralistic messaging, opting instead for breaking through the layers of colonization and acknowledging both the expanse and the mirage within possibility.

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