Tuesday, 13 April 2010

BADOU BOY (SENEGAL/1970/DJIBRIL DIOP MAMBÉTY)

Taking inspiration from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, legendary director Djibril Diop Mambéty’s debut film follows the exploits of a street urchin with the sobriquet Badou Boy. Constantly in trouble with the authorities, he spends a lot of his time on the run from them, ducking and diving through the narrow streets of the Dakar shanty towns as they struggle to keep up. Though his offences are mostly petty, it is his devil-may-care attitude which the cops appear to take umbrage with, and when the portlier of the two finally catches up with his playful archenemy, he relishes the moment, his hand clenched on the back of the boy’s trousers like a hawk’s talons on its prey. This, of course, is not the end of the mischief, as Badou Boy makes an effortless escape during a Marx Brothers-style imbroglio.

With few words, Mambéty creates a powerful character in Badou Boy, a quirky, rakish anti-hero whose problems are readily discernible, and his assertion that the film is somewhat autobiographical comes as no surprise. Shots last minutes without the protagonist uttering a single word, his mannerisms becoming the dialogue, while a soulful guitar-led soundtrack fills the silences with a sense of wistful nostalgia. Upon reflection, this could almost be an early blaxploitation movie, sharing elements of its style but not its hubris. Fans of this short feature should make sure to see Mambéty’s next film Touki Bouki, an ingenious, outlandish West African pastiche of Bonnie and Clyde and the French New Wave.





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