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HYENAS (HYENES) (RAMATOU) (director/writer: Djibril Diop Mambéty; screenwriter: from the play “The Visit” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt; cinematographer: Matthias Kalin; editor: Loredana Cristelli ; music: Wasis Diop; cast: Ami Diakhate(Linguere Ramatou), Mansour Diouf (Dramaan), Mahouredia Gueye (The Mayor), Issa Ramagelissa Samb(The Teacher), Rama Thiaw (Dramaan’s wife), Faly Gueye (The Mayor’s Wife), Calgou Fall (The Priest); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Alain Rozanes/Pierre Alain Meier; Kino Video; 1992-Senegal/France/Switzerland-in Wolof with English subtitles)
“Dark political satire about corruption is set in Western Africa.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This dark political satire about corruption is set in Western Africa and is partly based on Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play The Visit. Senegal writer-director Djibril Diop Mambéty(“Touki Bouki”/”Le Franc”/”The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun”) tells a human condition parable that ascertains that almost anyone can be subject to corruption.

In the small impoverished village of Colobane, that’s beset by a severe drought, hope rings out when after a 30-year absence hometown girl Linguere Ramatou, now embittered, wrinkled with age and saddled with an artificial leg, returns as a wealthy woman who is willing to give the village all the money it needs (“100,000 million”) to live comfortably if they execute her former grocer lover, Dramaan (Mansour Diouf), the respectable merchant who when he was 20 and she was 17 impregnated her and then abandoned her to marry another woman.When she accused him back then of wronging her, he bribed with wine two boy witnesses to lie in court on his behalf. The witnesses have been captured by the vengeful lady, who castrated them and made then confess to the citizens of Colobane that their previous testimony was a lie.

How the locals reactto such an outrageous offer, brings out the worst in most residents. All characters are thinly sketched, and predictably start acting like hyenas when greed overtakes them. The only one who grows from this ordeal is the grocer, who somehow finds inner peace in resolving his bad karma by facing things with honor.

The well-shot stylistic pic has its moments, but never materializes with much gravitas as its allegorical lessons become as heavy-footed as an elephant’s walk and by the conclusion the story loses its intensity and any magic it was shooting for.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”