Sonic Space in Djibril Diop Mambety s Films
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The art of Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety's cinema lies in the tension created between the visual narrative and the aural narrative. His work has been considered hugely influential, and his films bridge Western practices of filmmaking and oral traditions from West Africa. Mambety's film Touki Bouki is considered one of the foundational works of African cinema. Vlad Dima proposes a new reading of Mambety's entire filmography from the perspective of sound. Following recent analytical patterns in film studies that challenge the primacy of the visual, Dima claims that Mambety uses voices, noise, and silence as narrative tools that generate their own stories and sonic spaces. By turning an ear to cinema, Dima pushes African aesthetics to the foreground of artistic creativity and focuses on the critical importance of sound in world cinema.

Introduction: Aural Contexts
1. Aural Space and the Sonic Rack Focus in Touki Bouki
2. Flâneur, Geography and caméra-flâneur in Badou-Boy and Contras' City
3. Trauma and Zombie Narratives in Hyènes
4. Voice(s) in Le Franc and La Petite vendeuse de soleil
Gallery of film stills
Conclusion: Current Contexts and Legacies



Publié par
Date de parution 09 janvier 2017
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9780253024336
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Patrick McNaughton, editor
Associate editors
Catherine M. Cole
Barbara G. Hoffman
Eileen Julien
Kassim Kon
D. A. Masolo
Elisha Renne
Zo Strother
Vlad Dima
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2017 by Vlad Dima
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z 39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Dima, Vlad author.
Title: Sonic space in Djibril Diop Mambety s films / Vlad Dima.
Description: Bloomington : Indiana University
Press, 2017. | Series: African
expressive cultures | In filmography. | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016025320 (print) | LCCN 2016044070 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253024213 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253024268 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253024336 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH : Diop Mamb ty, Djibril, 1945-1998-Criticism and interpretation. | Sound in motion pictures.
Classification: LCC PN 1998.3. D 56 D 56 2017
(print) | LCC PN 1998.3. D 56 (ebook)
| DDC 791.4302/33092-dc23
LC record available at
1 2 3 4 5 21 20 19 18 17
To my American mothers, Judy S. and Eileen S .
Introduction: Aural Contexts
1 Aural Space and the Sonic Rack Focus in Touki Bouki
2 Flaneur, Geography, and Cam ra-Fl neur in Badou Boy and Contras City
3 Trauma and Zombie Narratives in Hy nes
4 Voice(s) in Le franc and La petite vendeuse de soleil
Gallery of Film Stills
Conclusion: Current Contexts and Legacies
I MUST BEGIN THE acknowledgements with Charles Sugnet, in whose African cinema course I first began to think about sound and Mambety. Also, at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, I would like to thank M ria Brewer, Eileen Sivert, and Christophe Wall-Romana for their patience, scholarship contribution, and friendship. Eileen and Christophe were instrumental in the development of the early stages of this study; in particular, Christophe contributed his film expertise and knack for new terminology. A special thank you goes to Alan Smith, who first sparked my curiosity in all things cinema.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I owe a huge debt to my colleague Richard Goodkin, who carefully read over different drafts of this study. I also want to acknowledge the contributions of Aliko Songolo and Steven Winspur. Even though Steven has tragically departed, he has remained a tremendous source of inspiration to me.
Infinite thanks go to my editor at the University of Indiana Press, Dee Mortensen, her team (Paige Rasmussen, Rachel Rosolina, Jim Cappio), and the anonymous readers who were extremely generous with their time and comments. This project is much better because of them.
I also want to acknowledge a series of people who have played important roles in my development as a scholar throughout my life: Dumitru Neagu, Valentin Sgarcea, Mirela Ghinea, Marina Nicolau, Judith Sarnecki, Eilene Hoft-March, Lifongo Vetinde, and Mark Dintenfass. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their constant, unwavering love and support, without which none of these words would have been written.
Aural Contexts
S EVERAL ICONIC IMAGES come to mind when one thinks about Djibril Diop Mambety s films: a boy and a kora, a motorcycle with the horns of an ox adorning the handlebars, hyenas, a young girl s face superimposed on the running printing press of a journal, a door with a winning lottery ticket. The last example comes from Le franc (1994), 1 a short from an unfinished trilogy about people at the margins of society. The film follows Marigo as he attempts to retrieve his beloved musical instrument from the possession of a landlady. In the process, he strikes it rich by winning the lottery. The character s journey is a suitable metaphor for Mambety s career. The value of his films certainly owes a debt to the visual, but what renders his work unique is an elusive element that goes beyond the image: sound. It is Mambety s prized instrument and the tool that allows him to introduce the audience to an entirely new scale of stories.
Mambety is a quintessential storyteller and that quality comes through most forcefully from an insistence on pushing sound to the narrative foreground. The way sound is constructed and manipulated in his work suggests the creation of new narrative planes-what I call aural narrative planes-that continue the oral tradition of layered African stories. The specificity of Mambety s cinema then lies in the tension created between the visual narrative and the aural narrative, which potentially leads to a fusion of Western and West African sociohistorical traditions. This study surveys the entirety of Mambety s body of fictional work by focusing on the role that sound plays in these films. 2 Once sound emerges as a primary narrative tool, it also takes on phantasmagoric qualities, and separately a corporeal quality. The latter is a physical presence of sorts that challenges traditional cinematic uses of sound and soundtrack. Ultimately, sound generates several types of space-phantasmagoric, diegetic (heard by both audience and actors), and one that both envelops and breaks the fourth wall, an extradiegetic kind (heard just by the audience)-that are in constant dialogue. The stories that stem from these spaces and aural narrative planes bridge Western practices of cinema and the oral tradition of West African storytelling in order to create a new cinematic aesthetic that pushes Africa to the foreground of artistic creativity. Mambety addresses the reason he consciously sought to mesh the two in the following way: It is good for the future of cinema that Africa exists. Cinema was born in Africa, because the image itself was born in Africa. The instruments, yes, are European, but the creative necessity and rationale exist in our oral tradition. . . . Oral tradition is a tradition of images. . . . Imagination creates the image and the image creates cinema, so we are in direct lineage as cinema s parents (Ukadike 2002, 128-129). This is an incredible declaration that paves the way toward the materialization of phantasmagoric spaces, because in spite of the several references to images, the implication of Mambety s words is that sound (that of the oral stories) generates images. Furthermore, it is probably safe to assume that the word instruments refers equally to actual European tools of filmmaking and to European practices of cinema, which have a long history of engagement with the narrative role of sound at creative and critical levels.
For example, French theorist Andr Bazin believed that with the advent of the talkies, cinema became something new, something that would come closest to fulfilling the myth of a total cinema (1967, 23-26). The image changed because it had sound attached to it. Suddenly cinema was perceived differently. The relationship between image and sound has been a thorny subject in film theory, and only in the last couple of decades has sound claimed its rightful place as a crucial element in our understanding and analysis of cinema. This work has mostly been done in the context of Western cinema (Hollywood, experimental, auteur, etc.). However, an argument can be made that sound is considerably more important in Third Cinema-a militant and political type of cinema. More precisely, Mambety revolutionizes the use of sound in the sociocultural context of Senegal, a country indelibly marked by postcolonial political complications. Sound achieves enough narrative power that it often becomes the primary means for telling a story and the image can disappear behind it, as opposed to the traditional way of thinking about this dynamic (i.e., image first, sound second). As we shall see, the idea that sound holds power bespeaks an alternative to Michel Foucault s panopticon, the classic visual metaphor for disciplinary power and knowledge: the acousmatic panopticon. The point is that even though the image never relinquishes its narrative powers completely, its impact can be drastically reduced by the emergence of sound, which is able to mediate postcolonial relationships of power. By emphasizing the development of the aural narrative capabilities of sound in cinema, Mambety offers the postcolonial subject and the postcolonial spectator the possibility of reappropriating both a lost space and a complex identity through sound. In other words, from the exploration of Mambetian sound it will be established that the sonic component of Third Cinema is a key element in the construction of a fundamental postcolonial fantasy meant both to protect and to navigate through the delicate balance of postcolonial subjectivity.
Djibril Diop Mambety was born in 1945, during a period of great unre

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