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Ousmane Sembene

Ousmane Sembene

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Also Known As: Sembne Ousmane Died: June 9, 2007
Born: January 1, 1923 Cause of Death: undisclosed illness
Birth Place: Ziguinchor, SN Profession: director, screenwriter, author, producer, bricklayer, plumber, apprentice mechanic

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The first film director from an African country to achieve international recognition, Ousmane Sembene remains the major figure in the rise of an independent post-colonial African cinema. Sembene's roots were not, as might be expected, in the educated elite. After working as a mechanic and bricklayer, he joined the Free French forces in 1942, serving in Africa and France. In 1946, he returned to Dakar, where he participated in the great railway strike of 1947. The next year he returned to France, where he worked in a Citroen factory in Paris, and then, for ten years, on the dock in Marseilles. During this time Sembene became very active in trade union struggles and began an extraordinarily successful writing career. His first novel, "Le Docker Noir," was published in 1956 to critical acclaim. Since then, he has produced a number of works which have placed him in the foreground of the international literary scene.Long an avid filmgoer, Sembene became aware that to reach a mass audience of workers and preliterate Africans outside urban centers, cinema was a more effective vehicle than the written word. In 1961, he traveled to Moscow to study film at VGIK and then to work at the Gorky Studios. Upon his...

The first film director from an African country to achieve international recognition, Ousmane Sembene remains the major figure in the rise of an independent post-colonial African cinema. Sembene's roots were not, as might be expected, in the educated elite. After working as a mechanic and bricklayer, he joined the Free French forces in 1942, serving in Africa and France. In 1946, he returned to Dakar, where he participated in the great railway strike of 1947. The next year he returned to France, where he worked in a Citroen factory in Paris, and then, for ten years, on the dock in Marseilles. During this time Sembene became very active in trade union struggles and began an extraordinarily successful writing career. His first novel, "Le Docker Noir," was published in 1956 to critical acclaim. Since then, he has produced a number of works which have placed him in the foreground of the international literary scene.

Long an avid filmgoer, Sembene became aware that to reach a mass audience of workers and preliterate Africans outside urban centers, cinema was a more effective vehicle than the written word. In 1961, he traveled to Moscow to study film at VGIK and then to work at the Gorky Studios. Upon his return to Senegal, Sembene turned his attention to filmmaking and, after two short films, he wrote and directed his first feature, "Black Girl" (1965). Received with great enthusiasm at a number of international film festivals, it also won the prestigious Jean Vigo Prize for its director.

Shot in a simple, quasi-documentary style probably influenced by the French New Wave, "Black Girl" tells the tragic story of a young Senegalese woman working as a maid for an affluent French family on the Riviera, focusing on her sense of isolation and growing despair. Her country may have been "decolonized," but she is still a colonial--a non-person in the colonizers' world. Sembene's next film, "Mandabi/The Money Order" (1968), marked a sharp departure. Based on his novel of the same name and shot in color in two language versions--French and Wolof, the main dialect of Senegal--"Mandabi" is a trenchant and often delightfully witty satire of the new bourgeoisie, torn between outmoded patriarchal traditions and an uncaring, rapacious and inefficient bureaucracy.

"Emitai" (1971) records the struggle of the Diola people of the Casamance region of Senegal (where Sembene grew up) against the French authorities during WWII. Shot in Diola dialect and French from an original script, "Emitai" offers a respectful but unromanticized depiction of an ancient tribal culture, while highlighting the role of women in the struggle against colonialist oppression. In "Xala" (1974), Sembene again takes on the native bourgeoisie, this time in the person of a rich, partially Westernized Moslem businessman afflicted by "xala" (impotence) on the night of his wedding to a much younger third wife. "Ceddo" (1977), considered by many to be Sembene's masterpiece, departs from the director's customary realist approach, documenting the struggle over the last centuries of an unspecified African society against the incursions of Islam and European colonialism. Featuring a strong female central character, "Ceddo" is a powerful evocation of the African experience.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Moolaade (2004) Director
2.
  Faat-Kine (2001) Director
3.
  Guelwaar (1993) Director
4.
  Camp Thiaroye (1988) Director
5.
  Ceddo (1978) Director
6.
  Xala (1975) Director
7.
  Emitai (1971) Director
8.
  Mandabi (1970) Director
9.
  Black Girl (1969) Director
10.
  Niaye (1964) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Ceddo (1978)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1940:
With Free French Army's Sengalese sharpshooters
:
Worked in France as docker and in automobile factory
:
Began painting and publishing poetry
1956:
Published first novel, "The Black Docker"
:
Studied film in Moscow and worked at Gorky Film Studios with Sergei Gerasimov
1963:
Made first film (unreleased documentary) for the government of Mali
1963:
Made first short fiction film, "Cart Owner"
1966:
Directed first feature, "Black Girl"
1968:
First film in Wolof (native Sengalese tongue) "The Money Order/Mandabi"
1972:
Founded Wolof monthly magazine, <i>Kaddu</i>
1974:
Scripted and directed "Xala"
1977:
Wrote, directed and appeared in "Ceddo"; film was banned in Senegal
1987:
First film in a decade, co-directed and wrote "Camp de Thiaroye", about the slaughter of African war veterans at the hands of the French
1992:
Produced, directed and wrote "Guelwaar", which focused on an accidental body swap of a Muslim and a Catholic at a morgue
2000:
Returned to filmmaking after eight year absence with "Faat-Kine"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Ecole de Ceramique, Marsassoum: -
VGIK: - 1961

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Carrie Moore. Married in 1974.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Cinema of Ousemane Sembene, a Pioneer of Black African Film" Greenwood Press
"A Call to Action: The Films of Ousemane Sembene" Praeger

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