The first ever African crime drama on UK screens.
All4’s Walter Presents moniker has always taken it’s “world drama” tag quite seriously, serving up a dizzying array of shows from all manner of countries. The arrival of new show Sakho & Mangane has received a little more fanfare than usual however, on account of being the first African crime drama available on the streaming service, and thereby offering viewers a new perspective on the genre’s tropes.
A co-production with Canal+, it is certainly packaged as slickly as it’s Western counterparts, with an expensive-looking True Detective-style montage title sequence that intimates we’re about to embark on something quite solemn and serious. But that’s where the similarities end – because it becomes quickly evident Sakho & Mangane is quite naturally something else altogether.
The show has a unique energy to it unlike other shows in it’s genre – some of this is partly due to creator and director Jean Luc Herbulot’s choice of hyperactive, kinetic camerawork that has an almost staccato rhythm to it, and this style will probably divide viewers a little at first – but once you get used to the show’s slightly manic atmosphere, it’s a very enjoyable adventure to behold.
The series follows two Senegalese detectives in the city of Dakar as they explore a different case every few episodes. The cops are your classic ‘chalk & cheese’ style pairing, with the older Commander Sakho (Issaka Sawadogo) being the cool, calm and collected counterfoil to Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael) who is a youthful, energetic live-wire full of bravado and desperate to prove himself. The pair’s generational divide is routinely mined for some broad comedic brushstrokes that add a welcome layer of warmth to their partnership, and Gael especially shines in his role as the younger officer.
Unfortunately, the acting beyond the leads is a little uneven, and tonally seems to be sometimes like certain characters are inhabiting a different show altogether. The real star however, is Dakar itself. Shot with bright, vibrant filters, it’s a beautiful place full of life and intrigue – and one that provides a markedly different outlook to the bleak, empty vistas we’re used to with nordic noir. If one of the major pleasures of watching world drama is to experience a wholly alternative environmental perspective to your own, then Sakho & Mangane delivers that with aplomb.
Whilst the series might offer up a fresh new experience in it’s setting and aesthetic feel on the surface, underneath there’s no escaping the show relies on the same formulaic elements that it’s genre counterparts suffer from. The core plots themselves feel less interesting than the internal dynamics of the region that are intertwined with the narrative, or how Senegal mixes it’s modern-day progressiveness with the country’s ancient roots and colonial past – and all the infinite nuances that evokes in it’s culture – are far more compelling at times than the main story.
But that’s not to say Sakho & Mangane isn’t worth a watch – far from it.
There’s a lot on offer here you won’t see anywhere else, and thanks to the episodic nature of the show, you can dip in and out for an adventure or two without feeling like you’ve missed anything in the larger story. Crucially, the show is simply good fun to watch.
One of the major criticisms of crime drama during the streaming boom has been how little representation it has had beyond Western Europe, where the choice has been somewhat slim. Sakho & Mangane goes some way to redressing that balance, and hopefully, we see many more shows arrive from similar climes with the same amount of personality.
Sakho & Mangane is available to watch on All4