Saturday Editor’s Pick: “Badou Boy”

by on April 8, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

4:00 at Museum of the Moving Image  [Program & Tix]

*Intro by John Akomfrah


Mark Cousins:

“The Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty should have been on T-shirts like Che Guevara, a famous face of the western 70s zeitgeist… He was the most wildly talented filmmaker to emerge from Africa at the end of the 60s – many would say ever.


Mambéty’s Touki Bouki can, in its precocious stylistic display and sonic innovation, be considered Africa’s Citizen Kane, so seeing [Badou Boy] was like discovering earlier works of Welles that reveal his style already to be fully formed … [Its] sonic complexity, its state of the nation-ness, its Joycean wandering, its allegorical fun, convinced me that Badou Boy is undisputedly a lost classic … It is as important to African cinema as, say, Le Sang d’un poete (Jean Cocteau, 1930) is to French cinema – perhaps more so. It reveals the origins of the aesthetic confidence, the joy in mocking, filming and thinking that can be seen in Touki Bouki. Mambéty developed his singular filmic stance earlier than I had thought; African cinema had to contain his highwire act earlier than I knew … Of course, if you find something new, you do not keep it to yourself.”


Allen White for Film Threat:

“The film begins by showing the film crew setting up for a shot, and although the work is not really a self-referential work about film, it in some ways is a self-referential work about story-telling. The characters are archetypal sketches. The titular ‘Boy,’ for example, is chased by a ‘Cop,’ and their relationship is not unlike that of an underdog silent film comic to his standard foil, a generic authority-figure policeman. It is the function of one to chase, the other to be chased. To reinforce the film’s connection to the silent era, Mambétyhimself appears as a Charles Chaplin-like figure replete with bowler and cane.


The film serves as another important indicator of how influential Western cinema has been to the rest of the globe. Like Godard’s Breathless absorbs and redefines tough-guy noir through the lens of French art cinema, Mambétyhas digested silent comedies and recreated them in a uniquely African mold.”


Olivier Barlet for Africultures:

“There will never be enough words to describe the novelty of Mambéty ‘s filmic style, how he so masterfully and economically translated his profound sensibility, his tender image of ‘little people,’ his acerbic critical view of the established order, his angst-ridden quest to understand the world, into images and sounds.  Right from his very first films…[including] Badou Boy he broke away from simple representations of reality, creating a style brimming with paradoxes, whose montage cyclically rhythmed the text and highlighted his profoundly free images that verged on a lyrical outpouring.”

“A film that anticipates the director’s fanciful 1973 film Touki-Bouki, Badou Boy is an acerbically humorous portrait of Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Dramatizing the inevitable clash of the iconoclast and the powers that be, the film takes the viewer on a wild chase through the streets of Dakar. Badou Boy, who usually spends his time loitering on city buses, is forced to outrun an overweight policeman nicknamed ‘The Black Dragon.’ As in his other films, Mambéty uses a swarm of colorful characters and improbable situations to create a vibrant romp in the big city. Known for his bold eccentricity, Mambety admits, ‘Badou Boy is a slightly amoral street urchin who resembles me a lot.'”


Mambéty’s last interview, with scholar N. Frank Ukadike at Newsreel.Org;

and another interview with African TV & Film Magazine.



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