The 2015 film, Semebene!, is a documentary about the late writer-director, Ousman Sembene, (1923-2007). His bioethics relevant filmography begins with his first film, Black Girl (1966) and finishes with his last work, Moolaadé (2004). The documentary, Sembene!, is directed by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman. Samba was Sembene’s friend, colleague, and biographer. Sembene! was screened at the 38th Mill Valley Festival in October 2015. A stroke of programming genius also allowed patrons to view the recently restored Black Girl. Black Girl is one of the World Cinema projects preserved by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, a testament to Ousman Sembene’s stature as African Cinema’s founder.
The structure of the movie Sembene! is formed from clips of the visually sublime, narratively sleek dramas created by the legendary filmmaker. Circumstances resulting in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) parallel Sembene’s life and work. Conscripted into the French Colonial Army, the artist subsequently served in the Free French Forces during WWII. In 1944, a massacre perpetrated by White Colonial French soldiers resulted in the deaths of somewhere between 70 and 300 Black French African troops who had been German prisoners of war, returned to their home continent. Sembene’s film about the massacre, Camp Thiaroyre (1988), is one of his most stinging indictments of colonialism, so much so it was banned in France until 2005.
Forced by economics to migrate to France after the war, he eventually became a Marseille dockhand. He found a home among French trade unionists, communists, anti-colonial and intellectual progressives. His back actually broken from lifting cargo, he was confined to bed.
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