Scen.: Djibril Diop Mambéty. F.: Stéphan Oriach. M.: Stéphan Oriach. Mus.: Issa Cissokho, Dieye Ma, Moussa N’Diaye. Int.: Dieye Ma (Marigo), Aminata Fall (the tenant), Demba Bâ (the dwarf). Prod.: Silvia Voser per Waka Films, Scolopendra Productions, Maag Daan. DCP. D.: 45’. Col.
After Hyènes (1992), an immense and exhausting adventure that took seven years of his life, Mambéty returned to telling stories about contemporary urban Africa in a smaller format with the series Histoires de petites gens. The project included three medium-length films that together would form a feature film, one film being shot per year: Le Franc in 1994, La Petite vendeuse de soleil in 1995, to celebrate the centenary of cinema, and L’Apprenti voleur in 1996. Unfortunately, Mambéty only completed up to the first cut of La Petite vendeuse de soleil, which Silvia Voser finished in 1999, a year after his death […].
In “a time of uncertainty” – quoting the radio announcement inviting people impoverished by the CFA franc’s devaluation to try their luck playing the lottery – Mambéty went beyond mere observation and elevated his anarchic and rebellious vision by creating the anti-social character of Marigo. With his easy-going walk and Chaplinesque clothes, Marigo immediately expresses his irreverent nature: he spits on the floor of his shack and blows his nose on a towel like an unruly teenager. His comic nature turns into an art like in Chaplin’s silent films, almost without words. Marigo speaks through facial expressions, and he does not give in to the bad luck that seems to chase him. Like Chaplin, there is always a glimpse of optimism: the strength of Mambéty’s characters lies in their dignity, courage and rejection of fatalism and resignation. They are parables of hope in contrast with Afro-pessimism, the lack of faith in the continent’s capability to develop, which was emerging at that same time.
Alessandra Speciale, Djibril Diop Mambéty o Il viaggio della Iena, L’Harmattan Italia, Torino 2019