Born in January 1945 in a Muslim family in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, Djibril Diop Mambety was one of the most remarkable, unconventional and idealistic film director the African Cinema has ever known. Although the African directors were famous for their morbid, linear and conventional films, Djibril Diop Mambety was able to shock the entire nationality with his vision and outstanding ability to create masterpieces.
The theme that dominated most of Mambety’s movies was hybridity. A film that is capable of displaying and supporting this statement is “Touki Bouki”, the director’s first feature-length movie. It tells the story of two young lovers who are trying to escape from their families and homes and travel to Paris. The journey itself is depicted with talent and expertise, as Djibril Diop Mambety combines both narrative and unconventional scenes in the course of action. The aesthetic apparel of the entire movie is refreshingly different from the intense, slow-paced style the African directors have been used to. The manner in which the action is presented “is less the narrative than its mode of presentation that carries the burden of meaning.” (Ukadike)
The main characters of “Touki Bouki” are Mory and Anta, and their journey of liberation is rarely easy to follow. Mambety has carefully mixed the cultural aspects of the nation with modern, refreshing features which were boldly added to the script. About this cautious preservation of the beliefs and customs, Ukadike says that the director has successfully represented “phantasmal images of postcolonial African society's myriad failings.” Consequently, it is safe to state the fact that even though Djibril Diop Mambety has created a true masterpiece, he has also brought a freshly new touch to the script, aspect which can be sensed in the camerawork. Additionally, the vibrant soundtrack completes the aesthetical vision and generates the cultural impact.
Another very important piece of art from Djibril Diop Mambety’s repertory is a movie called “Hyenas” which he has released in 1992, 19 years after his initial immense success. After this long period of time, he managed to come back with a film also centered on the main theme of the greed people develop and express. This time, he tells a story of a wealthy woman who returns to her birth place and falls in love with a man who first gives her a baby and then leaves her for another. The cultural aspects of this film focus on the “economic disintegration, corruption, and consumer culture that has enveloped Africa since the 1960s.” (Ukadike)
As far as the aesthetic features of “Hyenas” go, unlike the other masterpiece of this director, this film is softer, as it is “seductively filmed, playing in spare but stunning ways on the colors of its setting, a remote desert village.” (Stack) Furthermore, Mambety has managed to create a warm environment for the movie to be filmed in, in spite of the sad and terrible plot. The apparent welcoming surroundings are, however, a miserable image of a village troubled by poverty and grief for many years.
All features considered, there is definitely a special feature which makes the movies directed by Djibril Diop Mambety to be both appreciated and well received by the public. With his talent and vision, he managed to combine aesthetic factors with the cultural aspects of his nation and obtain gloriously successful results. Without any doubt, both “Touki Bouki” and “Hyenas” are masterpieces that are worthy of the high praises they have receives. Moreover, although they debate difficult situations, the refreshing method of story-telling makes them comprehensible by many people who enjoy watching good quality films.