Where To Find Ousmane Sembene Films
- Taaw (1970) Taaw is a young unemployed man in modern Senegal who fends off accusations of laziness for his unemployment and makes a home for his pregnant girlfriend who has been rejected by her family.
- Emitaï (1971) A historical film that functions also as a timeless allegory. In his clear, spare style, Semb6ne depicts the clash between French colonists and the Diola of Senegal in the closing days of World War II. It is the women who provide the first voice of resistance and the film conveys their social power as the retainers of ancient myths, rituals, and recent history.
- Xala (1975) Sembene’s savage and hilarious satire of the modern African bourgeoisie was heavily censored in Senegal. Forsaking the more obvious (and politically acceptable) targets of European exploitation and racism, Semb6ne here zeroes in on a far touchier subject: the entire blackfacing of white colonial policies after independence was granted. The hero of the film is a self-satisfied, westernized Senegalese businessman who is suddenly struck down with the xala, an ancient Senegalese curse rendering him impotent. His vain search for a cure becomes a metaphor for the impossibility of Africans achieving liberation through dependence on western technology and bureaucratic structures.
- Ceddo (1977) An exciting political thriller concerning the kidnapping of a beautiful princess is used to examine the confrontation between opposing forces in the face of Muslim expansion. The ceddo, or commoner class, refuse to submit to Islam. Set loosely in the 19th century, “Ceddo” is not strictly a historical film, as it ranges far and wide to include philosophy, fantasy, militant politics, and a couple of electrifying leaps across the centuries
- Camp de Thiaroye (1988)
Towards the end of 1944, at a bleak military transit camp in Senegal, soldiers from several parts of Africa who have fought with the Free French army to overthrow fascism in Europe, await demobilization, severance pay, and a trip home. French Captain Raymond sincerely tries to convince his Senegalese NCO Diatta that the massacres by French troops, such as that in which Diatta’s parents were killed, are a banished phenomenon from the Vichy past. The film’s dialectic is intent on proving him wrong. By the end, Raymond has been ostracized as a Communist by his fellow officers, and gradually the attempt by the French command to cheat the African veterans out of their severance pay provokes a mutiny. The French response is an armored attack on the camp with a near total loss of life. “Camp de Thiaroye” is true both to the historical record of the massacre and to the underlying culture of European imperialism
- Guelwaar (1992)In choosing “Gelwaar: An African Legend for the 21 st Century” for the opening of the 13th Pan-African Film Festival (in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, February 1993), the organizers of this event sought to honor Ousmane Semb6ne as the father of African cinema. “Gelwaar” is based on a true story: The body of Pierre Henri Thioune, alias Gelwaar and leader of a Christian community, is mistakenly delivered to Muslims who bury him in a Muslim cemetery following the teachings of Islam. When the mistake is found out, the Christians seek to recover “their” body. Sembene in this film develops familiar themes: real versus imaginary independence, women’s emancipation, the brain.
- L’Heroisme au Quotidien (1999)Set in a small village in rural Senegal, Heroisme au quotidien is the first of a trilogy (Faat Kine and Moolaade) Ousmane Sembene was devoted to the awakening and daily heroism of African women at the beginning of the new century. Hitherto exploited in their daily toil and for centuries enslaved by patricarchal and religious obscurantism and indoctrination, the women of a small village suddenly start hearing new voices broadcast from the city in national languages. Channelled through antiquated battery-powered radio sets, a contact is born with the outside world; the world they share with other women. Their new knowledge blows open the walls of their prison, broadens their horizon and challenges their centuries-old relation of subordination to their men. Heroism au quotidien is teh voice of change; the sudden discovery of a new Value (freedom) that leads to a revolt a la Camus. It heralds a new dawn for African women and for African men.
- Faat Kiné (2000) Sembene tackles the question of women’s lives in contemporary Dakar, Senegal’s bustling capital in this warm often funny story of a single mother, her two children, two ex-husbands, aged mother and assorted friends. Sembene contexualizes his heroine’s thoroughly modern triumphs and anxieties culturally and politically in Dakar where women’s lives have been shaped by tribal custom and male prejudice as much as by their cutting-edge aspirations.
- Moolaadé (2004) Moolaadé is a rousing polemic directed against the still common African practice of female circumcision. The action is set in a small African village, where four young girls facing ritual “purification” flee to the household of Collé Ardo Gallo Sy, a strong-willed woman who has managed to shield her own teenage daughter from mutilation. Collé invokes the time-honored custom of moolaadé (sanctuary) to protect the fugitives, and tension mounts as the ensuing stand-off pits Collé against village traditionalists (both male and female) and endangers the prospective marriage of her daughter to the heir-apparent to the tribal throne.