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Response to Number23 (Original post)

Tue Jan 26, 2016, 06:35 PM

46. The Story of Sembene!: How Ousmane Sembene Invented African Cinema

Last edited Tue Jan 26, 2016, 08:46 PM - Edit history (1)

By Bilge Ebiri for Vulture:

This year’s Sundance Film Festival was filled with movies about the love of movies: The drama smash Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and the documentary The Wolfpack both featured characters whose lives centered around a fascination with classic films, and who strove to re-create those films in their own way. But no film demonstrated the power of cinema more resonantly than Sembene!, directed by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman, which screened as part of the world-documentary competition.

The Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene (1923–2007), often called the father of African cinema, had a seismic career. He effectively created an African film industry out of nothing: In 1963, with a used 16mm camera and leftover film stock sent by friends from Europe, he made a short called Borom Sarret (The Wagon Driver), considered the first African movie made by a black African. Until the independence of French West Africa in 1960, French colonial authorities had made it illegal for Africans to make films of their own, so countries like Senegal had no film equipment, no professional actors, and no funding; Sembene used friends and family to put the film together. “Any time I hear an American independent talking about his war story in getting a film made, I have to smile to myself and think of Ousmane Sembene,” says co-director Silverman.

In 1966, Sembene made La Noire de … (Black Girl), the first feature film ever released by a sub-Saharan African director; it was awarded France’s prestigious Prix Jean Vigo and put him on the map, making him a mainstay on the festival circuit. From there, his profile rose. With the politically charged epics Xala (1975), Ceddo (1977), and Camp de Thiaroye (1987), he created some of the most beautiful films of all time, courting both controversy and acclaim and ensuring that African cinema had a place on the world stage. Ceddo was so inflammatory it was banned in some African countries for its depiction of strife between Muslims and Christians. Thiaroye, about a colonial-era massacre of African troops by the French, was banned in France but won six awards at the 1987 Venice Film Festival. Sembene’s devastating final film, Moolade, about female genital mutilation, won the Un Certain Regard award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Sembene! documents the filmmaker’s eventful life — he grew up in a family of fishermen on the shores of the Casamance River in rural Senegal, living a life of what he termed “daily vagrancy.” Kicked out of school for insubordination, uninterested in fishing and wanting to see the world, he stowed away to France. He was working as a dockworker in Marseilles in the 1950s when he wrote his first novels, out of a desire to see the Africa that he knew depicted in literature. When he turned to cinema in the 1960s, it became a vital link for him between the oral cultures of his youth and the timely political issues of his day. His films often start off in simple, fablelike ways, but they proceed to ask complex questions about identity and tribal, spiritual, and political allegiance. These are serious films about serious subjects, but thanks to Sembene's poetic style of storytelling, they hover between realism, ritual, and myth. They are, all of them, utterly intoxicating.



much more here: http://www.vulture.com/2015/02/how-ousmane-sembene-invented-african-cinema.html

Sembene! trailer:

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