Directed by Ousmane Sembène • 1971 • Senegal
Starring Robert Fontaine, Michel Remaudeau, Pierre Blanchard
Seething with outrage, Ousmane Sembène’s EMITAÏ envisions both the cruelties of oppression and the revolutionary potential of the oppressed. During World War II, Marshal Pétain’s French forces and their African lackeys comb the Senegalese countryside, conscripting young Diola men into service and attempting to seize rice stores for soldiers back in Europe. Torn between allegiance to their silent gods and fear of fomenting a resistance of their own that might upset them, the tribe’s patriarchal leadership frays; meanwhile, the French humiliate the women of the tribe when they refuse to yield their harvests. With unflinching realism, Sembène explores the strains that colonialism places upon cultural traditions and, in the process, discovers a people’s hidden reserves of rebellion and dignity.