Movie of the Week: “Touki Bouki” (1973)

I’m short on time recently, so, rather than not post at all, I’ll revive my long neglected “Movie of the Week” feature (that died due to being widely ignored) and present one of my now favorite movies. “Touki Bouki” is a avant garde production from Senegalese director and writer Djibril Diop Mambéty. Made for less than $30,000 in 1973, Mambety tells the story of Mory and Anta, a pair of lovers seeking to escape Senegal for a romanticised France.

The film is less of a story, and more of a surreal patchwork of pictures of life in Senegal and insight into the complicated hopes and dreams of a colonized people. France represents a mythical place of prosperity and freedom, though life in Senegal is portrayed as frighteningly real. Mory is a petty criminal who rides around his hometown on a motorcycle decorated with the horns of a bull, and it universally hated and respected by everyone around him. He attempts to get the money to leave Senegal by robbing a gay politician, buys some clothes, steals his car and wins the admiration of the community by throwing money around.

Despite having little experience with film, Mambety’s cinematography is strikingly vivid, a collection of seemingly disconnected scenes shot in full vibrant color, possibly representing the confused and disjointed nature of Senegalese identity post colonialism.

I’m a great fan of African cinema, and this has to be among the best.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

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