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PRINT November 2008

A TALE OF TWO CITIES: THE FILMS OF DJIBRIL DIOP MAMBETY

FICTION NOW SEEMS TO HAVE TRUMPED FACT; farce seems to have supplanted politics. If contemporary artists—from the Otolith Group to Iké Udé and Roshini Kempadoo—routinely obfuscate the lines between documentary and satire, such amalgamations have become no less commonplace in the bizarre media stunts of the United States presidential election. These convergences are not new, of course. Yet their full historical and cultural breadth remains obscure. An oft-overlooked but critical precursor in this vein is the late Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety, who once showed us startlingly progressive possibilities of merging real and fake. Indeed, Mambety was responsible for what we could call Africa’s first mockumentary: Contras’ City (City of Contrasts, 1969).

Mambety’s film is a tale of cultural misrecognition. A faux narrative of a Senegalese man taking a Frenchwoman on a tour of Dakar,

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