Directed by Samba Gadjigo & Jason Silverman (USA)
Film Screening + Q&A
Date: Sun 28th August
Time: 5:00 pm – 7pm (running time: 1:27 followed by Q&A)
Location: Hollywood Cinema, Anglia Square, Norwich NR3 1DZ (click here for more venue information)
Tickets: £5 in advance, £7 at the door from http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2566098
Watch the trailer now:
The story of a man who used his camera as a weapon to fight injustice.
In 1952, Ousmane Sembéne, a dockworker and fifth-grade dropout from Senegal, began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. SEMBENE!, a feature-length HD documentary, 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. SEMBENE! is told through the experiences of the man who knew him best, colleague and biographer Samba Gadjigo, using rare archival footage and more than 100 hours of exclusive materials.
A true-life epic, SEMBENE! follows an ordinary man who transforms himself into a fearless spokesperson for the marginalized, becoming a hero to millions. Ousmane Sembene (1923-2007) is often referred to as the founder of African cinema. He was the first Sub-Saharan director to achieve international acclaim despite his radical politics. For Sembene, politics was inseparable from all aspects of his life. He was a life- long activist engaged in the struggle against colonialism, patriarchy, religion, social class and “African traditions”. He was a communist and trade union activist. Born in colonial Senegal, he got into trouble from an early age. He was expelled from school for hitting a French teacher. As a “French subject ” he had to fight in World War II, but afterwards stowed away to Marseilles where he was a dockworker for ten years. When Senegal won independence in 1960 he returned home. By that time he had written short stories and novels but switched to film making when he realised that writing was of little use in a largely illiterate country.
Sembene never forgot his audience. He wanted his films to speak “to all those who were exploited and silenced by the combined external forces of colonialism and the internal yoke of African traditions”. He had no time for those who celebrated nostalgically a pure pre-colonial “Africa”. Not surprisingly he was unpopular with both the French and Sengalese governments and his films often banned or censored. He regularly travelled with his films as they toured rural Senegal. For him the film did not finish with the closing credits. He wanted the audiences to discuss and debate what they had just experienced.
He studied film making in Moscow at the Gorky Institute and made his first feature film ” La Noire de…” in 1966. His final film “Moolaade” was made in 2005. Women are centre stage in both films. In the first we see a woman who pays the ultimate price for believing that escaping to France with her colonial employers is her route to freedom. In the final film, “Moolaade”, the subject is genital mutilation but it is a story of defiance and resistance versus ancient custom. In between he made another eight feature films dealing with, amongst other things, strikes, colonial killings, religious confrontation and the disillusionment of independence.
His anger and sorrow about exploitation and oppression never waned but his films are not polemics. In style they are poetic and beautiful. They explore complexities and contradictions in both the colonisers and the colonised. The colonisers are not simple monsters although they can behave in monstrous ways. The colonised are never just passive victims. He can also be witty but always about something serious.
As a magnificent story teller he challenges the narratives of the powerful. He confronts the terrible in ordinary people’s lives but never to elicit tears or sympathy. He was committed to action. His challenge to the audience was to look anew, reflect and act.
– Jan Ainsley, Monthly Screening Coordinator