Djibril Diop Mambety

<i>Le Franc</i>
Le Franc

The far-from-prolific Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety (1945-98) made only two features and a number of shorts in three decades of filmmaking (he was working on a third feature when he died), but these two inspiring 45-minute short films show a remarkable artist at work. In 1994's Le Franc, Marigo, a dirt-poor musician, picks up a bill dropped by a careless rich man and is immediately tackled by a dwarf who forces him to buy a lottery ticket. The lottery is the first since the devaluation of the national currency, and the dwarf may or may not be the god of fortune. Marigo sticks the ticket to the door of his tiny shack, which leads him to carry the door through litter-strewn plains, shaky bus rides, and a city that seems half-junkyard, when his number comes up. Marigo seems the very embodiment of the wise fool, hapless and holy, and his journey is slow and dreamlike, funny and full of uncertainty and joy. The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun, released in 1999, is at once more straightforward and more powerful still, described by the director himself as "a hymn to the courage of street children." Lissa Balera plays Sili Laam, a little girl with a leg brace and crutches who begs while her blind mother sings in the street. After being knocked over by a band of wild newsboys, she signs up to sell the Soleil, because "what boys do, girls can do, too." Though she's tiny and her limbs are wasted, she's tough as nails, uncowed by the newsboys protecting their turf, and even bossing corrupt cops around. The crushing poverty Mambety depicts on the streets of Dakar is constantly counterbalanced by faith -- faith in Allah, yes, but also the faith in oneself that comes of having no alternative but to be strong.

Le Franc and The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun screen on 9/18, 7pm, at the Texas Union Theatre.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Sam Hurwitt
Video Reviews
Arizona Dream (1993)
Johnny Depp plays Axel Blackmar, a guy who talks to fish, dreams of the Arctic, and sure as hell isn't going to take over the Cadillac dealership his Uncle Leo (Jerry Lewis!) owns.

Feb. 14, 2003

Video 101
Stormy Weather (1943)
The rags-to-riches storyline is mere pretext for the musical numbers but oh my stars and garters, what musical numbers.

Dec. 27, 2002

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle