Sembène 100
Screening Dates
  • October 16, 2023 6:30
  • October 22, 2023 8:30
New Restoration

The spirit of Emitaï is cool, proportionate, affectionate but unillusioned … Sembène does not grab you; he engages you.”

Roger Greenspun, The New York Times

Set during WWII in Ousmane Sembène’s home region of Casamance in Senegal, Emitaï is a powerfully ambiguous portrayal of the fragile bonds of a collective: the women harvesters of the small village of Effok, the village’s young men violently forced into enlistment, and a palavering group of powerless elders clinging to tradition. When Maréchal Pétain ordered the repopulation of European battlefields with West African men, Sembène himself was made a soldier at the age of 15. The ensuing resistance that inspired Emitaï, led by women like Aline Sitoe Diatta (today a national hero), was the continuation of the region’s three-century-long refusal of colonial rule. Sembène doesn’t merely vilify the French (who banned the film); he provocatively contrasts the life-saving strategies of the women with the spectacle-hungry procrastination of their religious leaders. Sembène later depicts the end of the war in his unsparing epic, Camp de Thiaroye.

Advisory: Emitaï contains scenes of ceremonial animal slaughter.

In Diola and French with English subtitles

As usual with Sembène, this is a film designed to make [its audience] share discovery and revelation, the limitations of myth, the cruelty of the oppressor, the fortitude of the people, and the need for revolution.”

Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art

Remarkable … A direct challenge that makes no concessions to the expectations and desires of Western audiences.”

Magatte Diop and Michael Popkin, Village Voice