Close Up

15 - 27 August 2017: Close-Up on Ousmane Sembène


"A former bricklayer and soldier turned trade union organizer, Ousmane Sembène is widely recognized today as one of the most prolific African writers and film makers. But Sembène’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 self-image.

The recipient of many honors throughout his career, Ousmane Sembène, 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. Sembène wrote books and made films not for profit but for man’s sake because he believes man is culture." – Samba Gadjigo

Borom Sarret
Ousmane Sembène
1964 | 19 min | B/W | 35mm

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. read more

Black Girl
Ousmane Sembène
1965 | 65 min | B/W | 35mm

The first work by a sub-Saharan black director to have been seen outside the continent, Black Girl represents the essential first step in Sembène’s self-described project to counter the “neocolonialism [that] is passed on culturally through the cinema.” read more

Ousmane Sembène
1974 | 123 min | Colour | 35mm

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. read more

Ousmane Sembène
1977 | 120 min | Colour | 35mm

Banned in Senegal on an absurd technicality, Ceddo, Sembène’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. read more

Camp de Thiaroye
Ousmane Sembène & Thierno Faty Sow
1987 | 152 min | Colour | Digital

A historical fiction based on the Thiaroye transit camp massacre in 1944, Ousmane Sembène and Thierno Faty Sow's Camp de Thiaroye dismantles the myth of colonial assimilation to expose ingrained social and cultural mechanisms of racism, exploitation, and privilege. read more

Ousmane Sembène
1993 | 115 min | Colour | 35mm

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. read more

Ousmane Sembène
2000 | 118 min | Colour | Digital

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 Sembène contextualizes his heroine’s thoroughly modern triumphs and anxieties within the complex culture and politics of Dakar. read more

Ousmane Sembène
2004 | Colour | 120 min | 35mm

Sembène’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 Sembène’s belief in the cinema as the most effective means of social change in Africa. read more

Samba Gadjigo & Jason Silverman
2015 | 90 min | Colour | Digital

Sembène!, tells the unbelievable true story of the “father of African cinema,” the self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought, against enormous odds, a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give African stories to Africans. Sembène! is told through the experiences of the man who knew him best, colleague and biographer Samba Gadjigo. read more