Tuesday, August 28, 2007

[Wadabo_updates] Ousmane Sembene Film Series at Harvard

Hello everyone -
In our midst is this wonderful resource - Harvard. They are going to be
showing a whole series of films by the legendary Ousmane Sembene. See
you there.

*September 7th - 10th*


Ousmane Sembene – In Memoriam

A former bricklayer and soldier turned trade union organizer, Ousmane
Sembene is widely recognized today as one of the most prolific African
writers and film makers. But Sembene's significance moves beyond the
question of his productivity. He is celebrated today throughout Africa
and around the world as the first African creative artist with a
"virginal faith" in the redemptive and galvanizing power of art and as a
filmmaker who used the barrel of the camera to restore the African

The recipient of many honors throughout his career, Ousmane Sembene, who
died in June at 84, will leave his mark on world cultural history as one
of the most talented storytellers of his time and as a rare and solitary
African revolutionary who understood the political nature of narratives,
their power in shaping our past, our present, and our future. He devoted
his life to giving voice to a voiceless continent through the production
of narratives countering dominant, hegemonic discourses (political and
religious) of the African Islamic and postcolonial elite. Sembene wrote
books and made films not for profit but for man's sake because he
believes man is culture. -- Samba Gadjigo, Professor of French, Mount
Holyoke College

LOCATION: Harvard Film Archives, Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy St. Cambridge

INFORMATION: 617 495-4700 or http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/general_info.html
Tickets: $8 - Regular Admission $6 - Students, Harvard Faculty & Staff,
Senior Citizens


Introduced by Samba Gadjigo
Friday September 7 at 7 pm


Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal/France/Burkina Faso/Cameroon/Morocco/Tunisia 2004, 35mm, color,
120 min.
With Fatoumata Coulibaly, Maimouna Héléne Diarra, Salimata Traoré
Bambara and French with English subtitles

Winner of the 2004 Un Certain Regard Award in Cannes, Sembene's last
film delivers an open attack on the tradition of female circumcision
still practiced in Muslim and Christian communities in East and West
Africa. A wonderful testament to Sembene's belief in the cinema as the
most effective means of social change in Africa, /Mooladé/ describes the
brutal impact of circumcision on adolescent subjects and the
ostracisation suffered by the mothers and fathers who resist the violent
practice. /Mooladé/ was intended to be the second film in a trilogy
designed to honor the lives of African women, who Sembene referred to as
the "heroines of everyday life."

The Making of Mooladé

Directed by Samba Gadjigo, Appearing in Person
USA 2006, video, color, 20 min.

This documentary captures Sembene, at the ripe age of 79, working 12
hour days in a remote African village where midday temperatures usually
exceeded 100 degrees. Actors, production personnel, camera assistants,
and others connected with the film describe the challenges presented by
the scarcity of funding and the difficulties of shooting on location.


Friday September 7 at 9:30 pm

Borom Sarret

Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal, 1964, b/w, 19 min.
With Abdoulaye Ly
French with English subtitles

Sembene's first film, /Borom Sarret/ ("cart owner") chronicles a day in
the life of a beleaguered horse-cart driver in Dakar. In spite of the
material limitations of the production - if not because of the
challenges they posed - /Borom Sarret/ manages to create a powerful
social statement as it combines simple means with complex observations
on bureaucracy, religion, and the anonymity of the modern city.
Compressing his narrative into a mere nineteen minutes, Sembene conveys
the condition of Senegal's urban poor as he situates their experience in
the larger social panorama of post-independence Africa.

Black Girl

Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 1965, 35mm, b/w, 65 min.
With Thérèse M'bissine Diop, Anne-Marie Jelinek, Robert Fontaine
French with English subtitles

Regarded as the first major film in the evolution of African cinema,
/Black Girl/ chronicles the bitter and unambiguous story of a young
Senegalese woman who is hired on the "maid market" in Dakar and taken to
the Riviera by her white French employers. Under conditions that Sembene
saw as a new form of slavery, she falls into the ultimate despair of
isolation and invisibility. Inspired by a news story, the film made a
profound impression at international film festivals in 1966. The first
work by a sub-Saharan black director to have been seen outside the
continent, /Black Girl/ represents the essential first step in Sembene's
self-described project to counter the "neocolonialism [that] is passed
on culturally through the cinema."


Saturday September 8 at 7 pm


Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 1974, 35mm, color, 123 min.
With Thierno Leye, Seune Samb, Miriam Niang
Wolof and French with English subtitles

Zeroing in on the myth of African independence and on the capitulation
to white colonial policies by newly empowered black African leaders,
this savage and funny satire deals with a self-satisfied,
half-Westernized black businessman who is suddenly struck down by the
xala: a curse that renders its victim impotent. While he desperately
chases after witch doctors and soothsayers in search of a cure, the
character's condition becomes a mirror of the impotence of young African
nations that are over-dependent on white technology and bureaucratic


Saturday September 8 at 9:15 pm


Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 1968, 35mm, color, 90 min.
With Makhouredia Gueye, Ynousse N'diaye, Isseu Niang
Wolof with English subtitles

Sembene's first comedy, his first film in color, and first work in Wolof
- the language spoken by most of the population of Senegal - /Mandabi
/is the deceptively simple story of a man whose initial good fortune
leads to encounters with an intimidating barrage of Third World
bureaucracy. The film, which consists of a series of comic mishaps
involving Dieng's futile attempts to get an identity card so he can cash
his check, takes the viewer on a journey with corrupt government
officials and impoverished members of Dakar's proletariat. /Mandabi/ was
seen as a betrayal by many in the newly independent Senegal. The fact
that the film was a comedy did not spare Sembene's film from attacks in
the press.


Sunday September 9 at 3 pm

Camp De Thiaroye

Directed by Ousmane Sembene and Thierno Faty Sow
Senegal 1987, 35mm, color, 152 min.
With Iprahima Sane, Sijiri Bakaba
Wolof and French with English subtitles

In 1944, the French army massacred several units of West African
conscripts recently returned from the battlefields of Europe. Sembene,
who had been drafted into the French army that same year, knew of this
event and in 1998 used it as the basis for his sixth feature film. What
was essentially a demand by African veterans that they be paid the same
wages as their French counterparts led to an attack on soldiers who had
only recently been fighting the Nazis in Italy and Germany. In 1944, the
French colonial authorities viewed returning African veterans as second
class citizens and because the colonial administration was financially
bankrupt, found it convenient to refuse their demands. The resulting
mutiny by the veterans of Camp Thiaroye led to a full scale artillery
attack on the camp.


Sunday September 9 at 7 pm

Ceddo (aka The Outsiders)

Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 1977, 35mm, color, 120 min.
With Tabara N'diaye, Ismaila Diagne, Moustapha Yade
Wolof with English subtitles

Banned in Senegal on an absurd technicality, /Ceddo/, Sembene's most
ambitious film, uses the story of a beautiful princess's kidnapping to
examine the confrontation between opposing cultural forces: Muslim
expansion, Christianity, and the slave trade. The "Ceddo" - or feudal
class of common people - cling desperately to their customs and their
fetishistic religion amidst the impending changes. Nominally set in the
nineteenth century, /Ceddo/ ranges far and wide to include philosophy,
fantasy, militant politics, and a couple of electrifying leaps across
the centuries to evoke the whole of the African experience.


Sunday September 9 at 9:15 pm


Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 1971, 35mm, color, 101 min.
With Ibou Camara, Ousrnane Camara, Joseph Diatta
Diola and French with English subtitles

Sembene's third film launched his international reputation, reaching an
audience far beyond Senegal's Diola community, to whom he had directly
addressed the film. /Emitai/ takes place in the period at the end of the
World War II, as West African veterans are returning to their homes in
the French colonies. General De Gaulle, the hero of the trench
resistance, is now the leader of the newly liberated France, yet forced
conscriptions and massacres of Diola villages continue, some of them led
by former members of France's Vichy government. With /Emitai/, Sembene
realized his statement "film should be a school of history." When the
film was released in 1971, it was immediately banned in Senegal, and
throughout Africa.


Monday September 10 at 7 pm


Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 2000, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Venus Seye, Mame Ndoumbé Diop, Tabara N'diaye
Wolof and French with English subtitles

Faat-Kiné, the manager of a sparkling new gas station, drives an elegant
car, lunches with fashionably dressed friends, and worries about her
children passing their high school finals. But Sembene contextualizes
his heroine's thoroughly modern triumphs and anxieties within the
complex culture and politics of Dakar, with its contrastive architecture
of shantytowns and high-rises, streets crowded with cattle and Mercedes,
and women whose lives have been shaped as much by tribal custom and male
prejudice as by their twenty-first century aspirations. As it examines
the changing roles of women in Senegalese society, /Faat-Kiné/ opens
onto a new chapter in the career of this legendary director.


Monday September 10 at 9:15 pm


Directed by Ousmane Sembene
Senegal 1993, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Thierno N'diaye, Ndiawar Diop, Myriam Niang
French and Wolof with English subtitles

When the body of Guelwaar ("the noble one"), a political activist,
philanderer, and pillar of the Christian community, is mistakenly buried
in a Muslim cemetery, the result is a perfect storm of bureaucratic red
tape, family disputes, and religious conflict. As usual with Sembene,
/Guelwaar /is many films in one: black comedy, political allegory,
social satire, family drama, and, at the end, thunderous indictment of
the twin evils of homegrown African corruption and neocolonial Western aid.

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