Sonic Space in Djibril Diop Mambety's Films

Sonic Space in Djibril Diop Mambety's Films

Sonic Space in Djibril Diop Mambety's Films

Sonic Space in Djibril Diop Mambety's Films

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Several 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), 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. 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 . . .

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