For 50 years, Sembene Ousmane was Africa’s most tireless and forceful cultural hero. Unfortunately, 10 years after his death, his work is unknown to most Africans.
A documentary celebrating “Sembene across Africa” and “Honouring a Film Legend” will be screened across the continent in commemoration of Senegalese film icon and father of African Cinema Sembene’s contributions to African cinema with the hope of reintroducing his work to a new generation of Africans and to preserve his place in history.
After premiering in competition at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, this film has toured the world.
New York magazine named it one of the top ten films of the year. But, outside of festival screenings, Africans have been largely unable to see it.
That will change June 9th-11th, 2017, when SEMBENE! is screened FREE OF CHARGE, across the African continent; with public screenings in schools, theaters, cultural centers and public plazas; with house parties; and through free streaming.
The goal is to screen the film in all 54 African countries, in several cities in the Diaspora, and to give Africans a chance to experience a real-life hero, one who fought immeasurable odds to return African stories to the African people.
Maisha Film Lab will be partnering with Zanzibar International Film Festival, Kijiweni Productions, and Kwetu Film Institute to bring SEMBENE to the East African region.
The documentary will show at Kijiweni Cinema, Nafasi Art Space on Friday 9th June, 2017 at 7:30pm moderated by Amil Shivji and curtsey of Kijiweni Productions (Tanzania).
Maisha Film Lab (Uganda) will also screen it at Maisha Garden on Saturday 10th June, 2017 at 6.00 pm as moderated by Dr. Dominic Dipio and Dr. Okaka Opio Dokotum.
Zanzibar International Film Festival (Tanzania) will show the documentary at Amphitheater – Old Fort, Zanzibar on Saturday 10th June, 2017 at 7.30 pm as moderated by Prof Martin Mhando, Mr. Chande Omar, Mr. Hassan Mitawi.
Lastly, Kwetu Film Institute (Rwanda) will show it at TBC.
Ousmane Sembène (1 January 1923 – 9 June 2007), often credited in the French style as Sembène Ousmane in articles and reference works, was a Senegalese film director, producer and writer.
The Los Angeles Times considered him one of the greatest authors of Africa and he has often been called the “father of African film”.
Descended from a Serer family through his mother from the line of Matar Sène, Ousmane Sembène was particularly drawn to Serer religious festivals especially the Tuur festival.
Sembène drew on many of these experiences for his French-language first novel, Le Docker Noir (The Black Docker, 1956), the story of Diaw, an African stevedore who faces racism and mistreatment on the docks at Marseille.
Sembène’s second novel was O Pays, mon beau peuple! (Oh country, my beautiful people!, 1957), followed by his most famous novel is Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu (God’s Bits of Wood, 1960); most critics consider it his masterpiece, rivaled only by Xala.
Sembène followed Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu with the (1962) short fiction collection Voltaïque (Tribal Scars) and in 1964, he released l’Harmattan (The Harmattan), an epic novel about a referendum for independence in an African capital.
From 1962-1963, Sembène studied filmmaking for a year at Gorky Film Studio, Moscow, under Soviet director Mark Donskoy.
In 1965, he published Le mandat, précédé de Vehi-Ciosane (The Money Order and White Genesis) followed by Le Dernier de l’empire (The Last of the Empire, 1981).
In 1963, Sembène produced his first film, a short called Barom Sarret (The Wagoner). In 1964 he made another short entitled Niaye.
In 1966 he produced his first feature film, La Noire de…, based on one of his own short stories; it was the first feature film ever released by a sub-Saharan African director.
Sembène followed this success with the 1968 Mandabi, achieving his dream of producing a film in his native Wolof.
Later Wolof-language films include Xala (1975, based on his own novel), Ceddo (1977), Camp de Thiaroye (1987), and Guelwaar (1992).
In 1971, Sembène also made a film in the Diola language and French entitled Emitaï, which was entered into the 7th Moscow International Film Festival, where it won a Silver Prize.
It was also banned throughout French West Africa. His 1975 film Xala was entered into the 9th Moscow International Film Festival.
In 1977 his film Ceddo was entered into the 10th Moscow International Film Festival. In the same year he was a member of the jury at the 27th Berlin International Film Festival. At the 11th Moscow International Film Festival in 1979, he was awarded with the Honorable Prize for the contribution to cinema.
His final film, the 2004 feature Moolaadé, won awards at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and the FESPACO Film Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The film, set in a small African village in Burkina Faso, explored the controversial subject of female genital mutilation.
He is the subject of the 2015 documentary film, Sembene!.
Ousmane Sembène died on 9 June 2007, at the age of 84 at his home in Dakar, Senegal.