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The Shadow & Act Filmmaker Series Begins w/ The Films Of Ousmane Sembène

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 15, 2013 2:16 PM
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I first tried out this idea 3 years ago, on the old S&A site, but it didn't quite take off; so I killed it. 

I'm introducing it again, 3 years later, since the site's readership has grown tremendously over that time period - meaning, hopefully, participation will be much stronger than it was the first time around.

In short, I thought it'd be worthwhile to start what we could call a "Filmmakers series;" essentially, we pick a filmmaker of African descent - focusing especially on those filmmakers who aren't as widely known and appreciated, and thus are rarely talked about, even though the importance of the work that they've done demands that they are given more attention, and don't get lost in the annals of history.

We'll watch all their films in succession, and discuss on this blog. It'll be a bi-weekly thing - meaning, every 2 weeks, a film from the selected filmmaker's oeuvre will be assigned, and we all (those who want to participate in the discussion anyway) would then have 2 weeks to watch it. The following week, I'll share my thoughts on the film, introducing the discussion, and we'll talk about it collectively.

Hopefully, many of you will participate. It's kind of useless if it's just me yacking on in a post. It's supposed to be both an educational and an entertaining process. I certainly don't know everything, and readily admit to that, and I know some of you are even bigger cinephiles than I am, or will ever be; and even if you aren't, your opinions are still welcomed and embraced.

I'm starting the series with a non-American filmmaker, to shake things up a bit, since we tend to cover black American cinema more than any other part of the Diaspora, even though the mission of the site is to represent the entire Diaspora as well as we can (we're getting there, so hang on).

And what better filmmaker qualifies given my above criteria than Ousmane Sembène (a man often referred to as the "Father of African cinema").

It's a name that I hope most of you are familiar with - especially if you've been a regular reader of this blog since its inception.

If not, Wikipedia has a good enough summary of the man and his life, so you can certainly start there.

But you may actually learn more about him via his films.

In the future, I'll try to pick filmmakers whose films can be readily accessed, and I know some of Sembene's films aren't on DVD just yet (not in the USA anyway) - notably Ceddo and Guelwaar, but some of them are. In fact, 3 of them are on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature, so within a few clicks, you can watch them right now (or put the DVDs on your Netflix queue).

Amazon also has some of them for sale.

Between those two sites, as well as your local indie video rental store (although they're a dying breed right now), you'll get access to most of Sembene's films.

And a quick web search showed that at least one of the titles is on YouTube in its entirety.

So, to kick things off, we'll start with his first feature-length film (although it's only 66 minutes), La Noir De (aka Black Girl) - a film I'm sure some of you have already seen. It's a Netflix "Watch Instantly" option, so those with Netflix accounts have zero excuses for not seeing it.

Or, check out the entire film on YouTube - I embedded it below.

It's only about an hour of your time. You have between now and Friday, the 1st of March, to watch it, so, check out Black Girl this week or next, and hopefully you'll be able to share your own thoughts on the film in 2 weeks.

Here's the film from YouTube; or watch it on Netflix for a better quality image:

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More: Ousmane Sembène

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  • | February 23, 2013 6:20 PMReply

    You are marvelous !!! Without a doubt the most important and significant development in Black Cinephilia in the past 30 years. I am in, and happy that Ousmane is one of your first choices.

  • maya | February 18, 2013 7:43 PMReply

    Great idea!! Also as much as you can please do as you did today and include a free version of the film,because some of us are broke !! :-)

  • Akua.... | February 18, 2013 4:59 PMReply

    How does one correct "typos"????...anyway...count me IN!!!! ;-)

  • AkuA... | February 18, 2013 4:57 PMReply

    Wow...what a wonder-full "find" a online discussion group that takes more than a "pop culture" view of great filmmakers....count me it!!!!

  • Reinaldo | February 16, 2013 1:38 AMReply

    I sincerely hope that the discussion leads to the understanding of Sembene's work and some of the major themes in African cinema. Sembene was a social commentator who used the camera to convey his message to larger audiences. He did not accept censorship in any way shape or form.

  • BluTopaz | February 16, 2013 10:02 PM

    I hope so also. I enjoyed Black Girl, and would like to know more about classic African cinema as a whole and Sembene's influence. I love that Netflix has included an entire section devoted to African filmmakers.

  • Mimi | February 15, 2013 6:59 PMReply

    Ousmane Sembene is an amazing filmmaker and Black Girl (La Noire de...) was a groundbreaking film! I've seen it four times and have done a couple of presentations on it. A truly significant, haunting film. Definitely recommend it to those who have not seen it, and I love the idea of the Filmmakers series.

  • Nikki J | February 15, 2013 6:02 PMReply

    Love this idea. I hope we have some good discussions about these films.

  • ndlela | February 15, 2013 5:29 PMReply

    Great idea and good for you in selecting Ousmane Sembène as the first filmmaker. It will be great to watch his films again. I am looking forward to the discussion and the rest of the films.

  • Justin W | February 15, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    Wow I'm really excited for this. I hope this does work on the second go-around.

  • Dee | February 15, 2013 2:38 PMReply

    This is great. I saw Black Girl when Sembene paid a visit to my campus a while ago. My favourites for him though, are Moulaade and Xala. Looking forward to this series.

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