Inasmuch as Le Franc serves as a parable for a pervasive moral climate of disempowerment, Mambéty’s subsequent installment for Tales of Little People, The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun is its poignant and sublime antithesis.
The film centers on a young, illiterate, crippled girl named Sili (Lissa Balera) from a shantytown on the outskirts of Dakar who decides one day to abandon her blind grandmother’s vocation of begging in the street and take up the physically demanding job of selling newspapers – a task usually undertaken by boys who can aggressively peddle them at busy intersections throughout the city. Given an initial allotment of thirteen copies of the less popular, government newspaper, Le Soleil, Sili’s first day on the job proves to be auspicious when a well-to-do businessman, encouraged by her initiative and self-reliance, offers to buy out all her remaining copies, leaving her free to share her unexpected good fortune with her grandmother and a few neighboring friends for the afternoon, and even pleading for the case of a wrongfully accused woman who has been imprisoned without charges at a local police station.
In time, Sili forges a thriving business with her refreshingly low-key sales approach, cultivating a growing clientele of customers who go out of their way to buy her newspaper. But as the competition becomes increasingly desperate and cutthroat, Sili’s popularity soon places her in the crosshairs of rival peddlers who see her presence as a turf invasion and resolve to thwart her profitable enterprise by any means necessary.
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