the cranes are flying (mikhail kalatozov, 1957)
what they said: she said and the fabelmans

touki bouki (djibril diop mambéty, 1973)

Touki Bouki fills an enormous blind spot in my movie going, for it is the first movie from Senegal I have seen. This is on me ... there are many classic Senegalese films. Touki Bouki came to mind recently when it finished #66 in the Sight and Sound poll. People are still arguing about the relevance of this poll, where, thanks in part to an expanded, more diverse group of voters, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles finished at the top. In the previous poll in 2012, Touki Bouki was the only movie from a black film maker in the top 100. It has jumped from #93 to #66, and the number of black film makers in the top 100 has increased from 1 to 7.

I am so glad to be exposed to Touki Bouki. It has the freshness you might expect from a first-time film maker on a $30,000 budget. Mambéty gives us an insider's look at a country that had only recently declared independence from French colonialism. Touki Bouki does not explain Senegal from the point of view of the colonialists. It presents the world as Mambéty saw it.

I didn't always connect with the movie, which often felt like a student film, for better and for worse. Mambéty is unencumbered by the "rules" of cinema, and the freedom is enticing. The story is of young lovers who dream of escaping the strictures of their lives in Senegal to live in a France that is much more fantasy than reality. We see the poverty of their surroundings, and we understand their dreams, but ultimately, the picture rejects the fantasy France. Mambéty's Senegal is hard on the lovers, but there is beauty as well, and Mambéty makes sure we see that. Still, the "try anything" feel of the film didn't always cohere for me. I was impressed, but at times confused. 


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