By Era Krasniqi
A frame within a frame
Mati Diop’s documentary A Thousand Suns does a careful work in examining the life of Magaye Niang, once a lead actor of the 1973 film Touki-Bouki, now a cattle-herder in Senegal. Diop draws many parallels between Magaye’s life and the role in that film.
40 years after the Touki-Bouki Magaye’s life seems to have been shaped and senses deeply informed by the film. His love life in particular obeys the same laws. In many ways the director present them as inseparable from each other.
It is in the homage of Djibril Diop Mambéty the director of Touki-Bouki that details are revealed about the film’s plot. Young and beautiful Magaye appearing on screen, who at the time was considered as talented enough to make it in Hollywood. The film within the documentary shows a couple who wants to leave Senegal, the boy fails to board on the ship, while images of the girl waiving goodbye as she leaves the mainland are shown. This marking the end of them.
Magaye’s first love was Ante, they had plans of leaving the country together, they stole and lied if it was necessary only to board on a ship which would sail them in the direction of their dream. The dream was Europe or America they represented the trajectory of success. Magaye, as portrayed in the documentary, in that decisive moment of leaving, he seems to have an epiphany, his dreams are not dreams if attainable. In that moment of hesitation Magaye encouraged Ante to board on first, as he thought of what he could do in Europe, he realizes that it was absolutely nothing. He lets Ante go alone and never sees her again.
The film Touki-Bouki marks also the end of communism in Senegal. Today’s youth wants democracy and economic development, to Magaye that translates as a pursuit of material things. There is a sense that one get from the documentary that Magaye never wanted to change the course of his life because that would mean abandoning the reality which Touki-Bouki encapsulated. Reproducing the plot of the film through his life seems as a way of eternalizing it.