October 23, 2020  (Web Review)

Hyenas

Kino Lorber/Metrograph Pictures, 113 min. not rated, in Wolof w/English subtitles, DVD: $19.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The Senegalese “Hyenas” derives from the classic Friedrich Dürrenmatt stage play “The Visit” (shot rather haplessly in English with Ingrid Bergman in 1964) here given a rich cultural-transplant spin by Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty. Setting is an impoverished town called Colobane, where old Dramaan Drameh (Mansour Diouf) is a popular grocer. The community thrills to the arrival of Linguare Ramatou (Ami Diakhate), a local beauty who left 30 years ago for romance and adventure and is now returning “richer than the World Bank” as a possible benefactor. The young Linguare and Dramaan were once lovers, and it is expected this will mean a significant payday. But Linguare is a bitter old dowager, left a multiple amputee by her jet-setting adventures (with prosthetic limbs made of gold), deeply bitter over Dramaan and her life in the village she said turned her into an outcast concubine. She more or less puts the whole place on trial and promises largesse and luxury for Colobane, but only if Dramaan is executed as her revenge, a temptation that inevitably turns the whole society against the grocer. It is more visually fluid and accessible than many African films, though still stagy at times and drifting into pure symbolism in the end. Mambéty’s film nicely repurposes the play as a commentary on African internal stagnation, corruption and economic abuse by foreign powers. A disc extra is a commentary track by scholar Boukary Sawadogo, who points out details casual western viewers might miss (such as the Coca Cola and American products on Dramaan’s store shelves, to the exclusion of native African consumer goods). Also included in the set is an introductory booklet by writer Rooney Elmi. A worthwhile addition to foreign-cinema and pan-African collections.