Sembène 100
Screening Dates
  • October 12, 2023 6:30
  • October 15, 2023 8:40
  • October 23, 2023 6:30

Sembène’s perfect short story is unlike anything in the film library: translucent and no tricks, amazingly pure … The whole movie holds an even, equilibrated, spiritual tone.”

Manny Farber, Artforum’s Ten Best Films of the Year (#1)

Ousmane Sembène’s first feature is also his most acclaimed, its restoration in 2016 paving the way to a spot on Sight and Sounds greatest films of all time poll. Set mostly in France, Black Girl is an outlier in Sembène’s career, a work of both disillusionment and indomitable inspiration made in response to that country’s prestige and promise; after its completion, the filmmaker returned home to Senegal, from that point on his permanent artistic base. Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) leaves for Antibes in the employ of a French couple. She is to be their young son’s nanny, but once received at their home, Diouana finds herself ensnared in their colonial way of life. Edited to just under an hour to qualify for French funding as a short (France’s national film board, the CNC, would not recognize Sembène’s film training as qualification for a feature), the film went on to win the Prix Jean Vigo, the highest honour for a young director.

In French with English subtitles

There are few endings in all of cinema as powerful and rich as this—brimming with tragic wisdom and latent meaning, with finality and promise, with humour and pain.” Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Sharp and sophisticated … Blatantly political, but never grandstanding [in] its demonstration of the link between social forces and the emotions of everyday life.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club

The most visually striking film I’ve seen in a long time.” Tessa Thompson

preceded by

Borom sarret
(The Wagoner)
Senegal/​France 1963
Ousmane Sembène
18 min. DCP

In this compact survey of post-independence Dakar, a cart driver taxis passengers—the unemployed, the mourning, the upwardly mobile—from the markets of Medina to the colonial architecture of the Plateau. Sembène himself performs the voiceover of the protagonist, and lays out many of the social patterns and unspoken rules he would re-evaluate and break in the course of his career.

In French with English subtitles

A powerful piece of filmmaking.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The October 12 screening of Black Girl will be introduced by Titilope Onolaja


Titilope Onolaja is an artist, art historian, and art curator. She co-curated the exhibition Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots at the Museum of Anthropology (2021-22), and is currently conducting her PhD research in the history of Nigerian and Senegalese museums at the University of British Columbia.