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Afrikan Heritage Month: My Eyes Will Send a Light to You: Africa Cinema Icon to Narrative Film (Series 1) — rescheduled from Feb. 13

February 29 at 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
| Zoom

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Join us via Zoom: https://bmcc-cuny.zoom.us/j/81568721271?pwd=WjlBa3RzV2k1akRRY1lPdUJFWGkvZz09

Meeting ID: 815 6872 1271
Passcode: 203812

The following three films will be shown today:

HYENAS 1992, Director: Djibrili Diop Mambety: Switzerland, France, Senegal, 1hr: 50Mins.

In Hyenas, Djibril Diop Mambéty adapted a timeless parable about human greed into a biting satire about how Africa has betrayed the hopes of independence for the false promises of Western materialism, brilliantly combining two seemingly unrelated stories. Years ago, in Dakar’s port district, a mysterious prostitute, Linguère Ramatou, appeared for a few years and, just as suddenly, disappeared. Mambéty imagined a history for this enigmatic figure as a beautiful young woman abandoned by her lover for a wealthier wife and driven away by the small-minded villagers of Colobane when they discover she is pregnant. Mambéty imagined an ending for the story when he saw Ingrid Bergman in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play The Visit. Now an old woman, “as rich as the World Bank,” Linguère returns to her village and bribes the avaricious inhabitants to kill her former lover. Mambéty’s satire reveals the implacable logic of the marketplace—the reign of the hyena.

Mambety’s avant-garde realistic film captures the real heart and soul of the human social and economic blood thirst for money, when stopping to think about the different animal symbols in this film like the hyena, vulture, and yes even the monkey; you can’t help feeling ashamed to be part of the big machine, we call progress. then again is that not what human nature, or the nature of animals is all about? Survival of the fittest. Mambety not only nails the human viciousness and easily influenced character on the head, but he slaps you in the face with our greed. A real plus to this movie is the musical language of Wolof.

THE LAW (TILAl) 1990   Director: Idrissa Quedraogo Burkina Faso, 1hr: 21Mins

One of the most celebrated films from Africa, this troubling drama follows a young African man who is engaged to the woman he loves until the man’s father decides that he should marry this woman himself. This fateful decision forces the young lovers into an illicit affair. On the run, they find tradition and the law will play a large role in their fate.

Set in a pre-colonial African past, Tilai is about an illicit love affair and its consequences. Saga returns to his village after an extended absence to discover that his father has taken Nogma, Saga’s promised bride, for himself. Still in love with each other, the two begin an affair, although it would be considered incestuous. When the liaison is discovered, Saga’s brother, Koudri, pretends to kill Saga for the honor of the family and village. Saga and Nogma flee to another village, but when Nogma’s birth mother dies, he returns home. Having brought ruin on the family

Tilaï (The Law),” a film by the Burkinabé director Idrissa Ouedraogo, from 1990— “Tilaï” is a masterwork that has long been hard to find. The film by Ouedraogo is an exemplary literary film.

It’s something of a modern, West African version of a Greek tragedy, made in villages in Burkina Faso but set in an indeterminate, mythic past that offers some of the trappings of the modern world but not others (such as electricity and automobiles) while also hinting at a clash in mores provoked by the impingement of modernity. Saga (Rasmané Ouédraogo), a youngish man whose youth seems behind him, returns to his village after an unexplained two-year absence and is greeted by his brother, Kougri (Assane Ouedraogo), who informs him that, while he was away, Nogma (Ina Cissé), the woman who was going to marry Saga, has in fact married their elderly father, Nomenaba (Seydou Ouédraogo). In short, Saga’s former fiancée has become the brothers’ mother.

The notion of maternity is, here, a legal one. Mossi society, as depicted, is polygamous. Nomenaba is also married to the two brothers’ biological mother, Koudpoko (Mariam Ouedraogo), who sees the situation clearly, and whose very inaction is an eloquently determined action: she tells Kougri that Saga is once again leaving home, unbeknownst to their father. Kougri is caught in the middle—his loyalty to his brother and piety toward his father are in conflict. The conflict is exacerbated all the more keenly when Nogma defies the law and slips off (claiming to see an aunt in another village) to stay overnight with Saga in his hut. In effect, they haven’t only committed adultery but also incest, and, when their relations are discovered, both families are dishonored. Nogma’s father commits suicide and Nomenaba exercises his right to order the killing of Saga—and the designated executioner is Kougri.

Ouedraogo, filming in his native Sahel region of Burkina Faso and working with amateur actors (whose performances are nonetheless compactly expressive, subtly varied, and dramatically urgent), writes sharply etched texts (judging from subtitles) that don’t require much declamation but that expound the drama—and, just as important, its emotional underpinnings—both clearly and decisively. (The score, by the jazz musician Abdullah Ibrahim, reinforces the dramatic blend of modernity and tradition.) Nogma’s marriage was forced upon her by her father, no less than the punishment of Saga is ordered by his father. The subject of the film is the most literal form of patriarchy, in which fathers’ decrees are law and in which law primarily embodies the interests of fathers. The unnatural graft of unjust authority into village life is suggested in the remark of one village woman to a girl, commenting on Nogma’s forced marriage to Nomenaba: “Nogma will come to love him as I came to love your father.” But Saga’s audacious defiance of paternal authority is matched by Koudpoko’s quiet complicity, a complicity of silence that nonetheless finds a drolly dramatic counterpart in a brief scene in which Nogma closes her door to Nomenaba, who then heads to Koudpoko’s hut, which he finds equally barred.

Ouedraogo (who studied filmmaking in the Soviet Union and France) films the villages’ architecture and their natural settings with love and anguish. He turns low walls and open doors into virtual frames within frames, and extracts drama from the varied landscape of hills and plains, with its expanses and vistas, its Sophoclean crossroads and the mortally decisive encounters that arise there. The theatrical rhetoric that the filmmaker underplays in speech bursts into his images, which are as poised and majestic as they are starkly analytical. It’s as if his wide-ranging views of the region were virtually crisscrossed by the sharp and implacable lines of the law. He’s also as deft with intimate action as he is with long-range compositions; he films a scene of violence, at a moment of crisis, in a single shot of brisk restraint that fuses banality and grandeur, the physical and the mythic, the profane and the sacred, with a sense of awe and horror that’s the very essence of the tragic dimension.

CLANDO, 1996 Director Jean Marie Teno: Cameron 1hr: 38 Mins.

Proud and determined, the hunter set out, leaving behind his village ravaged by a terrible drought. All the villagers came out to wish him well, and everyone gave what he could: an egg, a handful of peanuts or a few kola nuts… As in the folktale, Sobgui, a former computer programmer who now drives a “clando” cab in Douala, flees to Europe to escape a life in Cameroon which has become unbearable. In Cologne (Germany), Sobgui joins a community of African emigrants. Most are hard-working and ambitious people. Sobgui begins a love affair with Madeleine, a German political activist who encourages Sobgui and his friends to return home and fight for change.


See the complete list of films (pdf) in this series.

See a list of all Afrikan Heritage Month events. Attend 2 or more events for Co-Curricular Transcript credit.

For more information, contact Professor Horace Brockington at hbrockington@bmcc.cuny.edu.