Djibril Diop Mambéty

Last updated
Djibril Diop Mambéty
Djibril Diop Mambety.jpg
BornJanuary 23, 1945
DiedJuly 23, 1998(1998-07-23) (aged 53)

Djibril Diop Mambéty (January 1945 July 23, 1998) was a Senegalese film director, actor, orator, composer and poet. Though he made only two feature films and five short films, they received international acclaim for their original and experimental cinematic technique and non-linear, unconventional narrative style. Born to a Muslim family near Dakar, Senegal's capital city, Mambéty was Wolof. He died in 1998 while being treated for lung cancer in a Paris hospital.

Film director Person who controls the artistic and dramatic aspects of a film production

A film director is a person who directs the making of a film. A film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfilment of that vision. The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking. Under European Union law, the director is viewed as the author of the film.

Dakar Capital and largest city of Senegal

Dakar is the capital and largest city of Senegal. The city of Dakar proper has a population of 1,030,594, whereas the population of the Dakar metropolitan area is estimated at 2.45 million.

Senegal republic in Western Africa

Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania in the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast, and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal also surrounds The Gambia, a country occupying a narrow sliver of land along the banks of the Gambia River, which separates Senegal's southern region of Casamance from the rest of the country. Senegal also shares a maritime border with Cape Verde. Senegal's economic and political capital is Dakar.



The son of a Muslim cleric and member of the Lebou tribe, Djibril Diop Mambéty was born near Senegal's capital city of Dakar in Colobane, a town featured prominently in some of his films. Mambéty's interest in cinema began with theater. Having graduated from acting school in Senegal, Mambéty worked as a stage actor at the Daniel Sorano National Theater in Dakar until he was expelled for disciplinary reasons. In 1968, at age 23, without any formal training in filmmaking, Mambéty directed and produced his first short film, Contras' City (City of Contrasts). The following year Mambéty made another short, Badou Boy, which won the Silver Tanit award at the 1970 Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia.

Mambéty's technically sophisticated and richly symbolic first feature-length film, Touki Bouki (1973), received the International Critics Award at Cannes Film Festival and won the Special Jury Award at the Moscow Film Festival, bringing the Senegalese director international attention and acclaim. Despite the film's success, twenty years passed before Mambéty made another feature film. During this hiatus he made one short film in 1989, Parlons Grandmère (Let's talk Grandmother).

<i>Touki Bouki</i> 1973 film by Djibril Diop Mambéty

Touki Bouki is a 1973 Senegalese drama film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty. It was shown at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.

Cannes Film Festival Annual film festival held in Cannes, France

The Cannes Festival, until 2002 called the International Film Festival and known in English as the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres, including documentaries from all around the world. Founded in 1946, the invitation-only festival is held annually at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

Hyènes (1992), Mambéty's second and final feature film, was an adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's play The Visit and was conceptualized as a continuation of Touki Bouki . At the time of his death, the film director had been working on a trilogy of short films called Contes des Petites Gens (Tales of the Little People). The first of the three films was Le Franc (1994). At the time of his death Mambéty had been editing the second film of that series, La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun), which premiered posthumously in 1999. His early death to lung cancer, at age 53, occurred in a Paris hospital.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt Swiss author and dramatist

Friedrich Dürrenmatt was a Swiss author and dramatist. He was a proponent of epic theatre whose plays reflected the recent experiences of World War II. The politically active author's work included avant-garde dramas, philosophical crime novels, and macabre satire. Dürrenmatt was a member of the Gruppe Olten, a group of left-wing Swiss writers who convened regularly at a restaurant in the town Olten.

The Visit is a 1956 tragicomic play by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

Le Franc is a 1994 Senegalese short comedy film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty.

He was the subject of a 2008 documentary film Mambéty For Ever . [1]

Film career

Cinematic style, themes, and politics

The notion of hybridity is a theme that runs through many of Djibril Diop Mambéty films. Like many of his contemporaries, Djibril Diop Mambéty used the cinematic medium to comment on political and social conditions in Africa. As critiques of neocolonialism, like those of Ousmane Sembène and Souleymane Cissé, Mambéty's films can similarly be understood in the context of Third Cinema. Yet, his often unconventional, surrealist, fast-paced, non-linear style distinguishes Mambéty from other prominent filmmakers of Francophone African Cinema who employed more traditional didactic, social realist narratives. African Studies scholar Sheila Petty notes, "unlike other African filmmakers of the late 1960s and early 1970s whose films were structured around essentialist nationalist discourse focused on the binary opposition of African values versus cultural alienation, Mambéty sought to expose the diversity of real life". [2] According to critics like Petty, his films were an expression of an African sensibility neither locked into narrow nationalism nor into colonial French culture. Instead of rejecting or elevating one as more or less authentically African, Mambéty confronted and engaged with postindependent Africa's complexities and contradictions. Montage sequences in his films that are overflowing with symbols and sounds of traditional and modern Africa, as well as contemporary European culture, depict hybridity. In addition, his own editing and narrative style are a confluence of the ancient griotic tradition of tribal storytelling and modern avant-garde techniques. Mambéty was interested in transforming conflicting, mixed elements into a usable African culture, and in his words, "reinvent[ing] cinema". [3]

Hybridity, in its most basic sense, refers to mixture. The term originates from biology and was subsequently employed in linguistics and in racial theory in the nineteenth century. Its contemporary uses are scattered across numerous academic disciplines and is salient in popular culture. Hybridity is used in discourses about race, postcolonialism, identity, anti-racism and multiculturalism, and globalization, developed from its roots as a biological term.

Neocolonialism, neo-colonialism, or neo-imperialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalisation and cultural imperialism to influence a developing country instead of the previous colonial methods of direct military control (imperialism) or indirect political control (hegemony). Coined by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1956, it was first used by Kwame Nkrumah in the context of African countries undergoing decolonisation in the 1960s. Neo-colonialism is also discussed in the works of Western thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Noam Chomsky.

Ousmane Sembène Senegalese film director, producer, screenwriter, actor and author

Ousmane Sembène, often credited in the French style as Sembène Ousmane in articles and reference works, was a Senegalese film director, producer and writer. The Los Angeles Times considered him one of the greatest authors of Africa and he has often been called the "father of African film". Descended from a Serer family through his mother from the line of Matar Sène, Ousmane Sembène was particularly drawn to Serer religious festivals especially the Tuur festival.

Other common thematic concerns in Mambéty's films are power, wealth and delusion. Offering a cynical view of humanity in his last feature-length film, Hyènes , Mambéty implicates Africans themselves for a continuing dependency on the West. Through the film and in many interviews, the director suggests that Africans are short-sighted in looking to the colonial past for their future, and are misled by their unrestrained desires for material goods that ensure Africa's dependency on foreign aid. Ultimately, however, Mambéty transmitted a message of hopefulness in his final films, which elevate the "little people," as the bearers of a positive and new Africa. "The only truly consistent, unaffected people in the world," Mambéty once said of the marginalized, "for whom every morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential to themselves". [4]

Vlad Dima, a professor of French studies, describes Mambéty's alternation "between synchronous and asynchronous sound" in his films as a way for viewers to move from a "visual plane" to an "aural narrative" plane. Dima provides an example of this technique as seen in the opening scene of Contras'city when French classical music accompanies the visual of the French-style Dakar City Hall building; it is then interrupted by the Senegalese flag, a disruption of the music, and a voiceover of someone saying "Dakar." [5]


"Cinema is magic in the service of dreams." [3]

"The word the word for what I do and the role that the filmmaker has in society...the griot is a messenger of one's time, a visionary and the creator of the future." (Africa Shoots Back)

"One has to choose between engaging in stylistic research or the mere recording of facts. I feel that a filmmaker must go beyond the recording of facts. Moreover, I believe that Africans, in particular, must reinvent cinema. It will be a difficult task because our viewing audience is used to a specific film language, but a choice has to be made: either one is very popular and one talks to people in a simple and plain manner, or else one searches for an African film language that would exclude chattering and focus more on how to make use of visuals and sounds." [3]

"Birds know what god is like. They are nearer than Hyenas to god. They are like some kind of elephant whose wings flow in the wind, and African Film makers can be birds for reinventing the seventh art. We are perhaps poor in money but so rich by situation and hope". [6]



Djibril Diop Mambéty's earliest film, a short entitled Contras'city (1968), highlighted the contrasts of cosmopolitanism and unrestrained ostentation in Dakar's baroque architecture against the modest, everyday lives of the Senegalese. Mambéty's recurrent theme of hybridity—the blending of elements from precolonial Africa and the colonial West in a neocolonial African contextis already evident in Contras'city, which is considered Africa's first comedy film.

Badou Boy

In 1970 Mambéty released his next short, Badou Boy , another sarcastic look at Senegal's capital that followed the adventures of what the director described as a "somewhat immoral street urchin who is very much like myself". [8] The contest pits the non-conformist individual against an absurdly caricatured policeman who pursues the protagonist through comedically improbable scenarios. Badou Boy celebrates an urban subculture while parodying the state.

Touki Bouki

Considered by many to be his most daring and important film, Mambéty's feature-length debut, Touki Bouki (The Hyena's Journey) more fully developed his earlier themes of hybridity and individual marginality and isolation. Based on his own story and script, Djibril Diop Mambéty made Touki Bouki with a budget of $30,000—obtained in part from the Senegalese government. Though influenced by French New Wave, Touki Bouki displays a style all its own. Its camerawork and soundtrack have a frenetic rhythm uncharacteristic of most African films—known for their often deliberately slow-paced, linearly evolving narratives. Through jump cuts, colliding montage, dissonant sonic accompaniment, and the juxtaposition of premodern, pastoral and modern sounds and visual elements, Touki Bouki conveys and grapples with the hybridization of Senegal. A pair of lovers, Mory and Anta, fantasize about fleeing Dakar for a mythic and romanticized France. The film follows them as they try to scavenge and hustle the funds for their escape. They both make it to the steamliner that would transport them to Paris, but before it disembarks, Mory is drawn back to Dakar and cannot succumb to the seduction of the West. Touki Bouki won the Special Jury Award at the Moscow film Festival and the International Critics Award at Cannes.


An African adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's famous Swiss play, The Visit, Hyènes ( Hyenas ) tells the story of Linguere Ramatou, an aging, wealthy woman who revisits her home village—and Mambéty's—of Colobane. Linguere offers a disturbing proposition to the people of Colobane and lavishes luxuries upon them to persuade them. This embittered woman, "as rich as the World Bank," will bestow upon Colobane a fortune in exchange for the murder of Dramaan Drameh, a local shopkeeper who abandoned her after a love affair and her illegitimate pregnancy when she was 16. The intimate story of love and revenge between Linguere and Dramaan parallels a critique of neocolonialism and African consumerism. Mambéty once said, "We have sold our souls too cheaply. We are done for if we have traded our souls for money" [3] Although its characters are distinct, Mambéty considered Hyènes to be a continuation of Touki Bouki and a further exploration of its themes of power and insanity. Wasis Diop, younger brother of Djibril Diop Mambéty, is responsible for the film's soundtrack.
The film is distributed by California Newsreel Productions.

Le Franc

This first film in Mambéty's uncompleted trilogy, Contes des Petites Gens (Tales of Little People), Le Franc (1994) uses the French government's devaluation of the CFA Franc to comment on the absurd schemes people concoct to survive a system that rewards greed rather than merit. The film features a poor musician, Marigo, who finds solace in playing his congoma, which has been confiscated because of his debt. Marigo plays the lottery, and despite winning, encounters obstacles to claiming the reward. The film is both slapstick and symbolic of the lottery-style luck that benefits some and hampers others in the global economy.
Le Franc is part of the project, Three Tales from Senegal which also includes "Picc Mi" (Little Bird) and "Fary l'anesse" (Fary the Donkey).
The film is distributed by California Newsreel Productions.

La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil

As the second installment in Mambéty's trilogy exalting the lives and promise found among ordinary Senegalese, the 45-minute film, La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun) depicts a young beggar girl, Sili, who on crutches, confidently makes her way through a city of obstacles, evading a group of bullies, and selling newspapers to make money for herself and her blind grandmother. Mambéty dedicates his last film to "the courage of street children". His luminous main character, Sili, manages to make this a sympathetic and optimistic look at the struggle and potential of Africa's most oppressed—young, female, poor, disabled. The movie is accompanied by a score by Mambéty's brother, Wasis Diop. This film was selected as one of the ten best films of 2000 by the Village Voice . Reviewer for The New York Times , A.O. Scott described the film as a "masterpiece of understated humanity." [10]

Personal life

Mambéty was the older brother of musician Wasis Diop and the uncle of actress and director Mati Diop, Wasis Diop's daughter. He was the father of Teemour Diop mambety and soon to be grandfather of Malayka mambety Diop.

See also

African cinema

Related Research Articles

Wasis Diop is a Senegalese musician of international renown, known for blending traditional Senegalese folk music with modern pop and jazz.

Diop is a popular surname in Senegal and Gambia, and may refer to:

Ben Diogaye Bèye is a Senegalese filmwriter, filmmaker, film producer and journalist. He was the co-director of nearly a dozen Senegalese films, including Touki Bouki with Djibril Diop Mambety, Baks with Momar Thiam, Sarah et Marjama with Axel Lohman, and the co-screenwriter of the latter two.

Cinema of Senegal

The cinema of Senegal is a relatively small film industry which experienced its prime from the 1960s through to the early 1980s, but has since declined to less than five feature films produced in the last ten years.

Gueule Tapée-Fass-Colobane Commune darrondissement in Dakar Region, Senegal

Gueule Tapée-Fass-Colobane is a commune d'arrondissement of the city of Dakar, Senegal. As of 2013 it had a population of 52,270.

<i>Hyenas</i> (1992 film) 1992 film by Djibril Diop Mambéty

Hyenas is a 1992 Senegalese film adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Swiss-German satirical tragicomedy play The Visit, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty. The intimate story of love and revenge parallels a critique of neocolonialism and African consumerism. It was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

Hyenas or hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae.

<i>La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil</i> 1998 film by Djibril Diop Mambéty

La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil is a 1999 Senegalese short drama film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty which premiered posthumously after his death in 1998.

Badou Boy is a 1970 Senegalese short film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty.

<i>Badou Boy aka Bad Boy</i> 1970 film by Djibril Diop Mambéty

Badou Boy aka Bad Boy is a short film set against the backdrop of a bustling Dakar in the late 1960s. "Cop" believes "Boy" is a menace to society but he is merely a street kid trying to survive. As "Boy" leads "Cop" on a chase through the shantytowns to the city centre of Dakar, director Djibril Mambéty gives a nod to Charlie Chaplin's model of silent films. Mambéty was to return again and again to the theme of lonely people on the edge of society. The character of "Boy" stands out as particularly poignant. Mambéty also lays the basis for the profound critique of corrupting Western influences on Africa - a hallmark of his films.

Contras'city is a Senegalese 1968 short documentary film.

Parlons Grand-mère is a Senegalese 1989 short documentary film.

Mambéty For Ever is a 2008 documentary film.

The 8th Moscow International Film Festival was held from 10 to 23 July 1973. The Golden Prizes were awarded to the Soviet film That Sweet Word: Liberty! directed by Vytautas Žalakevičius and the Bulgarian film Affection directed by Ludmil Staikov.

<i>The Black Decameron</i> 1972 film by Piero Vivarelli

The Black Decameron is a 1972 Italian costume drama comedy film directed by Piero Vivarelli.

1930s – 1940s – 1950s – 1960s – 1970s – 1980s – 1990s – 2000s

Mati Diop is a French actress and film director who starred in the 2008 film 35 Shots of Rum. She also directed the 2019 film Atlantics, for which she became the first black female director to be in contention for the Cannes Film Festival's highest prize, the Palme d'Or. At Cannes, Atlantics won the Grand Prix.


  1. "MAMBÉTY FOR EVER". SPLA South Planet. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  2. "Djibril Diop Mambety: un cinéaste à contre-courant". African Studies Association. Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2006-11-03.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "The Hyena's Last Laugh - A conversation with Djibril Diop Mambety". California Newsreel. Archived from the original on 2010-12-20.
  4. "THREE TALES FROM SENEGAL". California Newsreel. Archived from the original on 2006-11-06.
  5. Dima, Vlad (2012). "Aural Narrative Planes in Djibril Diop Mambety's Films". Journal of Film and Video. 64 (3): 38–52. doi:10.5406/jfilmvideo.64.3.0038. JSTOR   10.5406/jfilmvideo.64.3.0038.
  6. "Interview with Djibril Diop Mambety Southern African Film Festival--1993 Africa Film & TV Magazines".
  7. "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  8. Barlet, Olivier. "Djibril Diop Mambety, the one and only". Archived from the original on 2006-08-05.
  9. "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema – 52. Touki Bouki". Empire.
  10. Scott, A. O. (November 24, 2000). "With Ties to Africa but Varied Lives All Their Own".