As I mentioned last week during September I watched a couple of amazing films by Senegalese writer/director Ousmane Sembène: Emitaï, Ceddo. I’ve also seen his Black Girl, a look black displacement & diasporia in France which I found predictable & so didn’t resonate with me. Emitaï, Ceddo were constantly surprising.
Both are set in Senegal & presented an Africa I was barely familiar with. I grew up with the Africa of Tarzan & countless white safari movies. The blacks were toters of luggage – often superstitious, cowardly and/or stupidly obedient. Also the men were usually stripped to the waist & given to wearing ceremonial tribal bones, feathers & the like when running through the jungle. Their lives were peripheral to story even when the story was about them.
Emitaï deals directly & mercilessly with French colonial attitudes & actions. When the villagers resist sending their sons to fight in WWII they are treated like children who don’t understand the right of the French to do what ever they want. When the village is also ordered to give all its rice to the war effort & refuses as it means they will starve they are treated like selfish children whose cultural values aren’t valid.
The film shows their ordinary daily lives, their tribal religion & burial rituals as well as rice planting. All ordinary & all in direct relation to the land. They are more interested in maintaining their own dignity & families than they are in defending France against the Germans. I loved the scene where the native militia doesn’t understand how de Gaulle, a two-star general can over-rule Pétain, a four-star general.
Ceddo deals with religious colonization with Islamic persecution of villagers who won’t convert. The class system, enforced as much by guns as history, is one that runs through many cultures. The disregard of other belief systems as illogical superstition is still one of the middle east’s bones of contention. The Christians aren’t much better mind you.
I was quickly drawn into each film & appreciated this ‘insider’s’ look at colonialism – cultural & religious – that wasn’t balanced by the need to appease either the French or the Islami. Both films are in native languages & maintained the rhythms of their everyday speech. The performances were excellent & I loved the music in Ceddo by Manu Dibango (Soul Makossa). I found the Ceddo soundtrack on iTunes 🙂
If you want to step out the confines of the usual film story-telling these are two films worth tracking down.
what I want
what it’ll cost
is that the price I’m willing to pay
is the sacrifice
going to be worth the result
it is so unfair
why can’t I set the price
is that too much to ask
I’m willing to compromise
but when is enough enough
when can I say no
to what want to say yes to
when I think I’m losing
more of myself
to gain something I think I want
if my price was unreasonable
but they’re not reasonable
with their barriers of cost control
you can have this steak
but you have to eat it with a spoon
I suppose that’s possible
how can I say yes
at the same time
I want what you offer
but not the conditions you offer it with
the cost of keeping it
will be greater
than the cost of giving it to me
who doesn’t want it
even for free
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One thought on “Ousmane Sembène”
[…] been dips into the archives. One was a surprise. My post about Sengalese director Ousmane Sembène (https://topoet.ca/2019/10/07/ousmane-sembene/) experience a a handful of looks. I guess someone is teaching a film course on obscure African film […]