This year has been a journey of discovery for me with African cinema. Our Patreon listeners may remember that one of my resolutions this year was to become better acquainted with African films. To that end, I set myself a goal of fifty films from the continent in 2019 and I am on pace to surpass that mark. I am only beginning to scratch the surface of what there is to find, but I wanted to share some of that before the year was over. There is a tendency to think of African cinema as monolithic and grim. Nothing could be further from the truth, but finding those exceptions can sometimes take effort. Distribution is a major issue. Even with that, though, I saw some amazing films this year and one stood out above all the rest, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyenas (1992).
Hyenas belongs on any list of must see international films. It is a savage metaphorical critique of the World Bank. It is pitch black comedy. The reason I chose it above all the others, though, is the way it both embraces and subverts some of the more common characteristics of African film. The oral storytelling tradition, the clash between ancient traditions and modernity, the looming spectre of colonialism – they are all present. Mambéty, though, turns them inside out. He forces us to think about what every single one of these things means, but he does it with poetry and magic.
What you’ll find in this episode: a whirlwind tour of African cinema, the filmmaker as iconoclast, corruption, eunuchs, and truth, justice, and the African way.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Hyenas on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Claim.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Cairo Station.
A list of great African films, with one choice from each of the 54 countries.
One of our favorite domestic distributors of African films, ArtMattan Productions.