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Hyenas

In a dazzling cross-cultural literary adaptation, director Djibril Diop Mambéty turned a 1956 work by Swiss-German playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt into a study of poverty and greed in a Senegalese village—and made it hilarious and mysterious all at once. The basic plot comes from the play: a wealthy older woman (Ami Diakhate) returns to the impoverished village of Colobane that cast her out 30 years ago when she became pregnant out of wedlock. She’s ready to pump millions into the village, on one condition: that the people kill the man who got her pregnant (Mansour Diouf). Mambéty’s 1973 feature debut, Touki Bouki, was a revelation of sub-Sarahan cinema, and the 1992 film Hyenas is just as strong, injecting the vibrant colors of women’s dresses into a land otherwise dominated by earth tones and men who wear sacks for uniforms. The poverty on view is sobering in time when grocery store shortages of paper products are sending civilization into a frenzy. And a frenzy ensues when Colobane’s villagers start spending their new fortunes on refrigerators and air conditioning. Mambéty’s cynical view of humanity seems to argue that we will all be doomed if we don’t take stock of what’s really important. The film was to be screened at the National Gallery of Art on March 19 as part of the series African Legacy: Francophone Films 1955 to 2019, but you can watch it for free with your DC Public Library card. The film is available to stream on Kanopy. Free. —Pat Padua 

The dc1968 project

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All that many people know about 1968 in Washington, D.C. is that there was an uprising after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and parts of the city burned to the ground. Fifty years later, in 2018, historian and author Marya McQuirter created a way to address that with the dc1968 project. Each day in 2018, she shared on the website and via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter something that was happening on that date in 1968. She leaned heavily on items from the Washington Evening Star newspaper collection at the DC Public Library, but also used clippings from the Howard University newspaper and photos from various other sources. She has posts about subjects including the black-activist-owned Drum & Spear bookstore, the Gibbs Elementary School glee club, a Roberta Flack benefit concert, and McKinley Tech High School students protesting the Washington Post’s manipulation of the high school football rankings. There are national news-related postings as well, including a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on Feb. 7, 1968, at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, submitted and taken by the now-late D.C. artist Vernard Gray. Some of the posts contain a lot of detail, while others simply request information from the public about the photo that was shared. McQuirter closes out the series with a diary entry from an observant 14-year-old, who notes she watched the TV show The Mod Squad, ate pizza, and then laments the “assassinations, riots, deaths, invasions of the freedom of other countries” she’s seen, praying that the next year can be better. All the posts can be found at dc1968project.com. Free. —Steve Kiviat 

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