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The Father of African Cinema

April 21, 2015

Ousmane Sembéne was a Senegalese dockworker and self-taught filmmaker who would become the storyteller for a new Africa. Considered the ‘father of African cinema,’ Sembéne’s genuinely African film aesthetic continues to inform cinematic practice both in Africa and around the world. Director Samba Gadjigo’s new documentary SEMBÉNE! premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film tells the true story of a man who transformed himself into a spokesperson for the marginalized, chronicling Sembéne’s deep involvement in radical movements in 1960s Africa and the emancipating films he created for the African people. Gadjigo, Sembéne’s official biographer, will visit Westphal for a screening and discussion of Sembéne’s acclaimed film, BLACK GIRL, on Thursday, April 30.  


The free screening of BLACK GIRL (Noire de … La, 1966) will take place at 3:30pm in University Crossings, room 30 (15 N. 32nd Street). BLACK GIRL addresses post-colonial identity in its narrative of a Senegalese woman who immigrates to France to work for a wealthy French couple. Sembéne was among the first filmmakers to "indigenize" cinema, forgoing Hollywood-style moviemaking for African narrative structures and aesthetics. Through his own production company he worked independently of the European system that continues to dictate filmmaking practice in Africa today.


Samba Gadjigo will also lead a master class with Film & Video students on May 1. Gadjigo is the foremost expert on the life and work of Ousmane Sembéne. He was born and raised in Senegal and is professor of African Studies and French at Mt. Holyoke College. The film’s production company, Galle Ceddo Projects, was founded in 2008 to create projects that, in the spirit of Ousmane Sembéne, encourage the use of modern storytelling tools to galvanize and liberate the disempowered.

For more information about the film screening please contact Professor Karin Kelly at