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Review: 'Hyenas" Further Cements Mambéty as One of Africa's Strongest Cinematic Voices

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 26, 2020
Review: 'Hyenas" Further Cements Mambéty as One of Africa's Strongest Cinematic Voices

The wiles of western colonialism are frequently studied and used in film, possibly because there's nothing more relatable than watching the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Djibril Diop Mambéty's 1992 satire/drama "Hyenas" knows this on an elemental level. Every single plot incident and shot is filled with magic the likes of which can be defined as spiritual, with a deep understanding of nature and culture that's lost on a lot of western filmmaking.

The new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and Metrograph Pictures, with a terrific video presentation sourced from a new 2K master, further cements Mambéty as not only one of Africa's strongest cinematic voices, but also one of the world's essential filmmakers.

Based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Swiss-German satirical tragicomedy play "The Visit," "Hyenas" concerns the townsfolk of Colobane, a small village in the desert that's stricken by poverty. When Linguere Ramatou (Ami Diakhate), a newly wealthy woman who hails from Colobane, returns to her hometown, she immediately uses her wealth to twist the townsfolk to help exact her revenge on Dramaan Drameh (Mansour Diouf), a former lover that left her emotionally damaged and branded as a whore wherever she went. As the townsfolk slowly urge Dramaan to accept his fate, he makes a last-ditch effort to win over Linguere's love once again.

In "Hyenas," the true enemy is money. It warps each and every character in much of the same way, which is made clear by a finale that depicts tradition being tainted by Western influence. Although the subject matter is far from positive, Mambéty infuses it with acidic wit and touch for satire that Mel Brooks would respect. The film achieves the impossible task of gawking at its characters without disrespecting them. For instance, Linguere isn't seen as the villain of the story, as both the receiver and donator of large sums of money are equally at fault.

There's a terrific booklet interview with Mambéty and N. Frank Ukadike that comes with this Blu-ray that gets at why the director's approach to filmmaking is so unique. Mambéty sees magic in reality, even when it's snuffed out by material things. He mentions that headier ideologies like the madness of power, or the power of madness, don't deserve grand explanations in his work, as they serve a broader canvas. This release comes highly recommended. Other special features include:

• Audio commentary by film scholar Boukary Sawadogo, Ph.D.


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