Sembène 100
Screening Dates
  • October 13, 2023 6:00
  • October 23, 2023 8:30
New Restoration

Sembène, with wondrous simplicity, achieves an operatic orchestration of raw forces similar to Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.”

Tom Allen, Village Voice

Ceddo (sometimes translated as Outsiders, or more precisely, the people of refusal”) might be Ousmane Sembène’s masterpiece. It exemplifies Sembène’s vision of the artist—“a contemporary being who connects the past with the future”—by fearlessly weaving together two narrative strands: a drama of Indigenous governance invaded by an imam’s campaign of forced religious conversion, and a tale of heroic exile (a kidnapped princess and a thief) where action set-pieces are scored by the haunted diasporic sounds of Black spirituals and funk. Sembène, born into a Muslim family, saw his film labelled as anti-Islamic and banned in Senegal, but the film’s resonant and political power lies not in any division, but in how it fully realizes Sembène’s interest in cultural roots. The film’s uncanny sense of time grants us a full-circle image of both a pre-colonial society where the bond of words is sacred, and a post-colonial catharsis in response to the moment when the bond was broken.

In Wolof with English subtitles

“[Sembene’s] most beautiful film … More dialectical than filmmakers such as Leone or Kurosawa, [he] knits together two stories without ever confusing them; he maintains the distance between the description of resistance and the fiction of liberation, between the people and its heroes, the collective and the individual.”

Serge Daney, Cahiers du cinéma

Magnificent … Probably the greatest African film to date [for] its scope, mise en scène, and lyricism—a kind of lyricism [Sembène] has never expressed before now.”

Louis Marcorelles, Le Monde