A once-prosperous Senegalese village has been falling further into poverty year by year until the village’s elders are reduced to selling town possessions to pay debts. Linguère, a former resident and local beauty, now very rich, returns to this, the village of her birth. The elders hope that she will be a benefactor to the village. To encourage her generosity, they appoint a local grocer, Dramaan, as mayor—who once courted her and will now try to persuade her to help. In fact, Linguère has returned with the intention of sharing her millions with the village but only in return for an unexpected action. This plot twist brings human folly and cynicism into sharp focus. —IMDb
The son of a Muslim cleric and member of the Lebou tribe, Djibril Diop Mambéty was born near Senegal’s capital city of Dakar in Colobane, a town featured prominently in some of his films. Mambéty’s interest in cinema began with theater. Having graduated from acting school in Senegal, Mambéty worked as a stage actor at the Daniel Sorano National Theater in Dakar until he was expelled for disciplinary reasons. In 1969, at age 24, 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 technically sophisticated 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… read more
The second (and final feature) by Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Dop Mambety is one of the most emotionally and spiritually devastating films I have seen in a long while. Taking place in a village that was once an oasis in the desert, but has now fallen into poverty, drought, and ruin, a village where even the town hall has been stripped of its furniture in order to pay debts off, most of the residents spend their days walking around town or hanging out at Dramaan's grocery. Dramaan is universally loved by everyone in the town, and even picked to be the next mayor before an election even happens. But everything changes when the old town beauty Linguere Ramatou returns from a thirty year sojourn abroad with more money than the World Bank. Old passions between Dramaan and Linguere are rekindled, and the town seems to be on the verge of a great renewal. That is until she announces what she expects in return for giving away her money: Dramaan's head. You see, he had betrayed her when they were young, impregnating her and then denying the act in front of the court sending her packing in shame and ruin. Now she wants revenge. As the townspeople become seduced by her gifts (air conditioners, televisions, an amusement park, the usual) they turn on their old friend and soon his life hangs by a tiny thread. Unlike Mambety's earlier feature Touki Bouki, which I felt played out more like an extended short, Hyenas is a fully realized work. One almost lives with the people in this film, and gets to know them the way they know their own close friends. The shots of the crumbling buildings, and desert vistas all evoke an atmosphere of desolation, but also of home and camaraderie. When tragedy ultimately does strike, it is all the more devastating. At times Mambety indulges in some slight surrealism, hungry animals watch from the periphery, people walk around in golden hats and yellow boots, and the soundtrack delves into everything from electronica to folk music. This is an essential work. Instead of re-releasing the same movies, Criterion should restore and release this one. What a shame Mambety died so young, he surely had more masterpieces to make.