The film, Touki Bouki, highlights the aspect of cultural imperialism, an issue well brought out by the main characters in the movie. Mory and Anta, the main characters in the movie, make numerous attempts to leave their current lives in Senegal and pursue their dream of relocating to Europe.
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The story line is incorporated with various techniques that have played an important role in bringing out the phantasmal pictures of postcolonial fairytale (Slocum, 2005). This paper will therefore discuss the central themes and tensions that have categorically been brought out in the film.
The film portrays wealth, delusion, urban youth and love /betrayal as the central themes (Baaz and Palmberg, 2001). Wealth seems to be the main theme as it forms the basis of the whole film. The film brings out Anta, a university student, as a person who views the American hippie lifestyle as of utmost importance in her life.
Her boyfriend Mory, seem to have conflicting interests. The film portrays him as more of a drifter than a goal-oriented person and with a keen interest in gaining an identity. The combination of Anta’s interest in a hippie urbanized lifestyle and Mory’s focus to achieve an identity creates a common ground for the couple. They are both interested in being rich and living a better life than what they have been accustomed to in Senegal.
They further come to a common understanding that they can only acquire such wealth by relocating to Europe, and in particular, Paris. Riding on Mory’s motorcycle, they both embark on a long journey in a bid to realize their dream of being wealthy. Part of the challenge that they face is the means to get adequate funds to facilitate their escape to the unknown land of happiness. The importance of wealth is well portrayed when the couple commits a successful robbery and gets away with costly westernized clothes.
The theme of delusion is also evident in the film. Both Anta and Mory seem to exist in a fantasy world. They look forward to living a life that is characterized by richness, identity and happiness. In their young minds, Paris seems to be the ideal place to get what they want. Delusion is also portrayed in the soundtrack of the song ‘Paris’, which seem to capture the mind of the viewer too.
The song praises Paris and creates some sort of fantasy that it is only in Paris that one can get anything that he/she desires. Further, Mory’s dialogue also gives an indication of his admiration of Paris, a country that he has never set foot on, but one that he deems as being great in all ways. The entire story line characterizes the social-political allegory that attempt to define Africans as ‘easily seducible’ characters leading them to crave for a false westernized culture.
The main characters used to tell the story brings out the theme of urban youth and their reasoning capacity. Having been brought up in a rural setting, the two protagonists have the same goal of going to Paris to look for greener pastures.
They represent the larger percentage of the youths in any setting who in one way or another become easily bored with their current situation and are desperate to look for change. They are also guided by the most sought after kind of lifestyle, and in their case being fame and fortune. Their defiant nature is also evident as they are willing to do anything in their power to escape from their homes and family in order to achieve what they call a ‘fulfilling life.’
The theme of love and betrayal has also been well brought out by the characters. The couple is seen to be so much in love as they cruise together in Mory’s motorcycle. They both have the same dream of leaving Senegal and pursuing their dreams of getting rich and gaining their identity in a different part of the world. Throughout the film, Mory seems to be excited and leading on Anta in a bid to escape Senegal. However, he chickens out at the last minute and is seen to hurriedly exit the boat leaving Anta to travel to Paris on her own.
The film also employs some inherent tensions that are evident throughout the story telling (Harrow, 2007). One of the tensions seen is tradition versus change. The film adopts traditional features in most of its scenes that seem to contrast with the kind of change being craved after by the main characters. It portrays an agitated power of modernity and the influence of traditional symbolism.
For example, Mory’s motorcycle has been decorated with a pair of cattle horns that have been placed cleverly on the handlebars while all along the sweet modern voice in the background singing ‘Paris’ is evident throughout the journey bringing into reality the rift between the two worlds. Also, when Anta yells at her mother and tells her, ‘To hell with your traditions’ and to which the mother responds by telling her that she will surely regret the path she and Mory are choosing to take by what she terms as ‘emptying chamber pots’.
The other notable tension is between familiarity and facing the unknown. The first scene of the film brings out a pastoral mood accompanied by a series of African music in the background hence creating a familiar setting. The effect is further enhanced with live slaughtering of animals, a process that is shown in detail.
The presence of Anta’s aunt as a sorceress represents the culture’s beliefs and traditions hence creating a known sense of familiarity. This seems to contrast with the reality of facing the unknown. No one knows what lies in the outside world and more so, both Anta and Mory are not aware of what awaits them this tension is made even more evident when Mory suddenly changes his mind with the fear of going ahead to an unknown place.
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There is also a rift between home country and the pull by former colonial power. Mory and Anta represents Africa at large and they portray their willingness to be seduced by their colonial power. A good example is their mode of dressing which have been influenced by the colonial power. They want to have a life that can be related to that power. Take for example the change in riding on cattle as portrayed in the beginning of the film and riding on a motorcycle that is adorned with cattle horns.
The last tension is created between superstitions and unbelief. The film portrays too many superstitions in Senegal. One such scene is where Mory is kidnapped and Anta rushes to her aunt to seek her assistance in ascertaining the whereabouts of her boyfriend. This shows that she believes in superstitious powers of her aunt who is a sorcerer.
Also her aunt goes ahead to slaughter a goat in order to appeal to the spirits. This seems to create a rift with the unbelief nature of the European countries. The European countries seem not to harbor any superstitions hence creating a kind of admiration to the Africans who are willing to leave their culture, but are hesitant to do so at the same time.
Baaz, M., and Palmberg, M. (2001). Same and Other: Negotiating African Identity in Cultural Production. Sweden: Elanders Gotab Press.
Harrow, K. (2007). Postcolonial African Cinema: from political engagement to postmodernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Slocum, D. (2005). Rebel Without a Cause: Approaches to a Maverick Masterwork. New York: State University of New York Press.