Badou Boy 1970
Djibril Diop Mambéty / Senegal 1970 / 56m / Wolof with English subtitles / 15
Senegalese maverick filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty is still regarded as one of the most important African filmmakers of all time: a visionary both politically and creatively. But as a lone dissenter, allergic to institutional obedience, his work was deliberately ‘lost’ by those in power. Rarely seen yet often talked about, the film, like its creator, has been an enigma. This screening of Badou Boy will be a rare opportunity to see the film in the UK. The plot looks at a “badou boy”, or a bad boy, who survives in the bustling city of Dakar in the late 1960s, a turbulent time. Part parody, part fable, the film borrows from the strategic and economic resources of the gangster genre and psychedelic punk aesthetics in order to comment on the postcolonial experience in a newly independent nation.
This screening was part of AiM’s focus on Africa’s Lost Classics, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Africa in Motion | Glasgow School of Art | 30 Oct 2017
Open Colour Festival | Brighton | date tbc
CLIP 1: The opening of Badou Boy includes an upbeat soundtrack and production footage of the film shoot, with Mambety himself featuring prominently.
CLIP 2: One of the many street scenes in the film, as we follow Badou Boy’s travels through Dakar.
CLIP 3: A comical encounter with the recurring policeman.
The film follows a “badou boy”, or a bad boy, who survives in the bustling city of Dakar in the late 1960s, a turbulent time. Part parody, part fable, Badou Boy borrows from the strategic and economic resources of the gangster genre and psychedelic punk aesthetics in order to comment on the postcolonial experience in a newly independent nation.
Senegalese maverick filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty (1945-1998) is still regarded as one of the most important African filmmakers of all time: a visionary both politically and creatively. He was not only a filmmaker, but also an actor, orator, composer and poet.
Mambéty was born into a Muslim family in Colobane, a town close to Dakar, Senegal’s capital, which featured prominently in some of his films. His interest in cinema began with theatre and after he graduated from acting school in Senegal, he worked as a stage actor at the Daniel Sorano National Theatre 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 experimental 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, it was 20 years before Mambéty made another feature film, Hyènes (1992), an adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play The Visit. At the time of his death, the film director had been working on a trilogy of short films he called “Tales of the Little People”. The first of the three films was Le Franc (1994). Mambéty passed away while busy editing the second film of the series, La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun), which premiered posthumously in 1999. Mambéty was 53 at the time of his untimely death from lung cancer in a Paris hospital.
Cultural and Historical Context
Although Mambéty’s films were warmly received in festivals at the time of their release, in the highly charged, politicised context of the time, the seemingly apolitical aestheticism of his films (not to mention his decadent and non-conformist persona) meant that he never enjoyed the critical respect that his work deserved. The well-known Northern Irish filmmaker and writer, Mark Cousins, has described Mambéty as “Africa’s Orson Welles”, a maverick figure whose films teemed with ideas, a boundless creative energy that put all other African filmmakers to shame.
Marrying Western popular culture with African street culture, Mambéty created complex, hybrid works that elevated African filmmaking to new creative heights in the very first decade after the emergence of work from France’s former colonies. His unusual filmmaking style included non-linear narratives and experimental aesthetics.
A film that anticipates the director’s masterpiece Touki Bouki, Badou Boy is an acerbically humorous portrait of Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Dramatising the inevitable clash between the rebels and dissenters, and the powers that be, the film takes the viewer on a wild chase through the streets of Dakar. Badou Boy, the titular character, who usually spends his time loitering on city buses, is forced to outrun an overweight caricature-like though menacing policeman that reappears throughout the film. As in his other films, Mambéty uses a swarm of colourful characters and improbable situations to create a vibrant romp in the big city. Known for his bold eccentricity, Mambéty admits, ‘Badou Boy is a slightly amoral street urchin who resembles me a lot.’ The film celebrates an urban subculture while parodying the state.
- David Murphy, 2014, “Francophone West African Cinema, 1955-69: False starts and new beginnings” in Africa’s Lost Classics: New Histories of African Cinema (Legenda Moving Image) Lizelle Bisschoff & David Murphy (eds.)
- Sada Niang, 2014, “Badou Boy (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1970): Intertextuality, gangster movies and the language of African film” in Africa’s Lost Classics: New Histories of African Cinema (Legenda Moving Image) Lizelle Bisschoff & David Murphy (eds.)
- “The Hyena’s Last Laugh - A conversation with Djibril Diop Mambéty”. California Newsreel. www.newsreel.org