Language and Power in BLACK GIRL
Black Girl • 15m
In his watershed feature debut BLACK GIRL, master director Ousmane Sembène offers a searing critique of colonialism’s legacy via the story of Diouana, a young Senegalese woman whose new life in France working for a white family gradually reveals itself to be a trap. In this edition of Observations on Film Art, Professor Jeff Smith deconstructs Sembène’s multilayered use of dialogue and language, exploring how the central character’s outward terseness (what the director called “a defensive muteness”) contrasts with the film’s use of voice-over, which makes the viewer privy to Diouana’s inner thoughts as she grows increasingly disaffected with her situation. That both are expressed in French—the language of the colonizer, which Sembène’s funders required him to use—only enhances the film’s devastating portrait of cultural alienation.
Up Next in Black Girl
Directed by Ousmane Sembène • 1963 • Senegal
This groundbreaking short film, which won first prize at the 1963 Touris Film Festival in France, was the directorial debut of Ousmane Sembène.
Restored in 2013 by the Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory and Éclair, in association wit...
Wyatt Cenac on BOROM SARRET
Manthia Diawara on BOROM SARRET
In this 2016 piece, filmmaker and cultural theorist Manthia Diawara (“African Film: New Forms and Aesthetics and Politics”) addreses the significance of Ousmane Sembène's debut film.