It’s deeply moving to see the late Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety (1945-1998) resurrected on screen in Papa Madieye Mbaye’s docu short “Mambety.” Straightforward pic, shot mostly on the set of Mambety’s final film, “The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun,” is of a piece with most such director-tribute docus in that its potency is inevitably diluted if you regard it as a standalone work. But screened together with Mambety’s own films, as it was during the recent Pan African Film Festival, pic takes on greater power. Brief tribute should encourage fests to mount similar retros, particularly in the West, where Mambety is still under-recognized.
“Mambety” doesn’t differ significantly from the stock “behind-the-scenes” docus that adorn most DVDs nowadays, except that Mambety’s films (which include the achingly beautiful “Hyenas”) have scenes you actually want to be taken behind. Because of the small attention that gets paid to Third World cinema, there’s an initial intrigue to “Mambety,” but that interest is sustained by Mambety’s own lyrical insights into his aesthetics. “When I was younger,” he says, “I wanted to conquer, to prove. Now, I want to learn again.”