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For The Cinephile On Your Shopping List: Classic 'Touki Bouki' In New HD Digitally-Restored Blu-ray Package

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 18, 2013 11:38 AM
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Djibril Diop Mambéty's "Touki Bouki" (1973).
Just in time for the holidays, for that cinephile on your shopping list...

Criterion's Martin Scorsese World Cinema Project blu-ray package, which was released for sale on December 10.

Included are 6 films (the seminal 1972 film, Touki Bouki, made late Senegalese auteur, Djibril Diop Mambety is one of them) and 9 discs, with lots of extra features, for example:

  • New high-definition digital restorations of all six films, undertaken by the World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
  • New introductions to the films by World Cinema Project founder Martin Scorsese
  • New interview programs featuring filmmakers Abderrahmane Sissako (on Touki bouki), Kumar Shahani (on A River Called Titas), Metin Erksan and Fatih Akın (on Dry Summer), and Bong Joon-ho (on The Housemaid)
  • New visual essay on Redes by filmmaker and critic Kent Jones
  • New interview program on Trances featuring filmmaker Ahmed El Maânouni, producer Izza Génini, and musician Omar Sayed
  • New English subtitle translations
  • Three Blu-rays and six DVDs, with all content available in both formats
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays on the films by Charles Ramirez Berg, Bilge Ebiri, Kyung Hyun Kim, Adrian Martin, Richard Porton, and Sally Shafto

With regards to Touki Bouki, Mambety's niece, Mati Diop's next film, Mille soleils (A Thousand Suns), which is currently touring the film festival circuit, is a documentary that explores the legacy of her uncle's masterwork.

In the film, Diop journeys in search of her origins through the footprints left by film, and along the way gets to know Touki Bouki's two main actors (Magaye Niang and Mareme Niang) thirty five years later.

Based on his own story and script, Djibril Diop Mambéty reportedly made Touki Bouki on a $30,000 budget. Often compared to films of the French New Wave, Mambety puts his stamp on a film that incorporates stylistic flourishes that were considered uncharacteristic of most African films at the time, emphasizing both the highlights and struggles with the hybridization of Senegal. There's an insolence that’s expressed in it, we could say, a freedom from formality, as well as a great sense of humor.

As Mati Diop has insisted, it’s also the film where her uncle reveals himself the most.

Her exploration of Touki Bouki should be an interesting watch. I don't believe a documentary has ever been made that celebrates the film, and considers its legacy, given its significance in African cinema history.

It's a film (and I could name several others) that really deserves a proper restoration and re-release in HD, preserving but also reintroducing it to new generations, and those who are just not aware of it. And it looks like this Criterion release does just that. At the very least, you'll enjoy a new, well-deserved HD digital restoration of the film!

The other 5 films included in the World Cinema Project blu-ray package are:

Redes by Emilio Gómez Muriel and Fred Zinnemann (1936). In this vivid, documentary-like dramatization of the daily grind of men struggling to make a living by fishing on the Gulf of Mexico (mostly played by real-life fishermen), one worker’s terrible loss instigates a political awakening among him and his fellow laborers. 

- A River Called Titas by Ritwik Ghatak (1973); The Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak’s stunningly beautiful, elegiac saga concerns the tumultuous lives of people in fishing villages along the banks of the Titas River in pre-Partition East Bengal. 
- Dry Summer by Metin Erksan (1964). Metin Erksan’s wallop of a melodrama follows the machinations of an unrepentantly selfish tobacco farmer who builds a dam to prevent water from flowing downhill to his neighbors’ crops. 
- Trances by Ahmed El Maânouni (1981). The beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating musical documentary. 

- The Housemaid by Kim Ki-young (1960). A torrent of sexual obsession, revenge, and betrayal is unleashed under one roof in this venomous melodrama from South Korean master Kim Ki-young.

Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project expands the horizons of moviegoers everywhere. The mission of the WCP is to preserve and present marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions of the world ill-equipped to provide funding for major restorations.

Amazon is currently selling the blu-ray package for $65, which is a steal in my not-so humble opinion. If you'd like to pick up a copy, click HERE.


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