Senegal, 1973, 89 min, DCP, Dir. Djibril Diop Mambéty, In Wolof, Arabic and French with English subtitles, Not Rated, Janus

Touki Bouki

Saturday, February 18

“This 1973 first feature by Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty is one of the greatest of all African films and almost certainly the most experimental.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

“One of the most essential films of African cinema.” —Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

The screening will be followed by a conversation with Dr. Patoimbasba Nikiema, Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies / Global Black and Afropean Studies at the University of Miami.

With a stunning mix of the surreal and the naturalistic, Djibril Diop Mambéty paints a vivid, fractured portrait of Senegal in the early 1970s. In this French New Wave–influenced fantasy-drama, two young lovers long to leave Dakar for the glamour and comforts of France, but their escape plan is beset by complications both concrete and mystical. Characterized by dazzling imagery and music, the alternately manic and meditative Touki Bouki is widely considered one of the most important African films ever made.

Touki Bouki was restored in 2008 by the Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and the family of director Djibril Diop Mambéty. Restoration funded by Armani, Cartier, Qatar Airways, and Qatar Museum Authority.

This film screens as part of Dr. Terri Francis' program Echoing Josephine Baker

Click here to read her essay.

Echoing Josephine Baker explores the dancer-actor-singer’s prismatic vocal intelligence and resonance across a pair of extraordinary works of global black cinema: Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973) and Karim Aïnouz’s Madame Satã (2002).  

In the Senegalese film Touki Bouki, Baker’s 1949 rendition of “Paris, Paris, Paris” is heard intermittently. Floating over images of seemingly fallow trees, the sound of Baker’s soprano and the light, lovely orchestral score are like champagne bubbles after a party when you’re not sure you had a good time—sweet, but turning bitter. Baker (and Mambéty’s) siren song warn Mory (Magaye Niang) and Anta (Mareme Niang) while inviting them to experience the delights that await them in Paris, Paris, paradise on earth. Released a year after Baker’s death in 1972, perhaps too, Mambéty’s film samples the French icon’s voice as an artistic memorial in honor of her passing—yet, does it double as critique?

Baker was among the first Black women to star in a feature film, Siren of the Tropics (1927), and she went on to play leading, if ambivalent roles steeped in colonialist clichés, in Zouzou (1934), Princess Tam Tam (1935), and even the post-war film The French Way (1945). Viewed today, the films in which she performs let us see and hear what she was like then, how she moved, how she laughed, and how well she spoke French! Her citations in films like Touki Bouki and Madame Satã suggest how much her work meant to fellow creatives like Mambéty and Aïnouz whose films experiment with narrative structure and explore the complex interior worlds of their avant-garde and beautiful Black characters.

Please note: seating is general admission.

This program is presented in partnership with the Black Creatives Collective and with support from the University of Miami School of Communication.

University of Miami School of Communication and Black Creatives Collective Logos

Curated by Dr. Terri Francis, the Echoing Josephine Baker film program explores the dancer-actor-singer’s prismatic vocal intelligence and resonance across a pair of extraordinary works of global black cinema: Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973) and Karim Aïnouz’s Madame Satã (2002).

About Dr. Terri Francis

Terri Francis is associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Miami and the author of Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism (Indiana University Press, 2021). Francis is a 2022 Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grantee for her forthcoming book Make that Art!: Kevin Jerome Everson’s Body of Work. Her art writing has appeared in exhibition catalogs as well as the publications Mubi Notebook, Another Gaze, Bitch, Seen, Revue Initiales: Joséphine Baker Directed by Women, Lithub, Salon, and Shadow and Act. Her writing about black performance, film, and the conundrums of black representation has been featured in the academic journals Film History, Black Camera, Transition, Feminist Media Histories, ASAP, and Film Quarterly. From 2017–21, Francis directed the Black Film Center & Archive at Indiana University and secured the donation of African filmmaker Paulin Soumanou Vieyra’s written archive in addition to curating several film series, including Race Swap, Black Sun/White Moon and Love! I’m in Love!, and hosting several speakers series.

Francis is a frequent guest speaker and panel moderator, and she delivered the 2021 Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture for the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. With Betsy Stirratt she co-curated and published the catalog for the film installation Rough and Unequal: A Film by Kevin Jerome Everson. As a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Francis edited the open-access dossier Film Programming as Social Justice Work in the Wake of Covid-19, featuring essays from programmers, platform founders, and writers about their work during the summer of 2020.

Check out the rest of our Echoing Josephine Baker program!