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Home Movies: Hyenas

Djibril Diop Mambéty, Senegal, 1992; Kino Lorber, DVD & Blu-Ray

Senegalese auteur Djibril Diop Mambéty directed just two features before his untimely death in 1998, but his films are sui generis works of cinema—audacious in both their style and politics. Restored in 2018, his second feature, Hyenas, adapts Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play The Visit into a neocolonial fable. Kicked out three decades earlier for being pregnant out of wedlock, Linguere Ramatou returns to her impoverished hometown of Colobane “richer than the World Bank,” with a cruel offer that drives home the comparison: she will help the townspeople if they kill the man who betrayed her all those years ago. Hyenas is vividly specific to its place and time, incorporating folklore and the African oral tradition while incisively capturing that ’90s moment when many former colonies underwent forced liberalization. But the lessons of Hyenas seem forever resonant. In these current times of scarcity and crisis, as we’ve frequently found ourselves relying on the philanthropy of the very billionaires who entrench corporate inequities, I’ve returned often to the film’s pyrrhic visions of justice under capitalism.

Devika Girish is the Assistant Editor at Film Comment.