Sembène 100
Screening Dates
  • October 16, 2023 8:45
  • October 19, 2023 6:00
New Restoration

Sembène’s scorching, riotous satire of spiralling governmental and institutional corruption in post-independence Senegal has lost none of its jagged currency or hilarious venom in nearly fifty years. It remains virtually unmatched as a portrait of an African nation negotiating a new path between tradition and rotten western influence.”

Guy Lodge, Sight and Sound

The films of Ousmane Sembène emerged from a broader context of Senegalese art, which perhaps bears most heavily on Xala, his most specific and incendiary satire of the country’s ruling class. El Hadji (Thierno Leye) is one of the elites, meaning, for Sembène, one of the alienated. As he evades questions from his daughter, responsibility for his three wives, and any duty to his fellow citizen, his problems coalesce in the form of the xala, or curse of impotence. As in works by Buñuel or Pasolini, the film’s crude implications work in concert with a comedically motivated vision of the world’s imbalance. Xalas coded opening, of a reconstituted congress bankrolled by the French, targets Léopold Senghor, then-president of the country and co-founder of the Négritude arts movement, which Sembène disregarded as essentialist and disposed to mystification.” Senghor retaliated by censoring nearly a dozen scenes in the film, all intact in this restoration.

In Wolof and French with English subtitles

An outrageously funny comedy of manners that suddenly turns into a serious parable of corruption.”

Linda Gross, Los Angeles Times

Uproarious … Xalas satire turns on a dime … It’s a textual Venus-flytrap, luring us into the maw of honest sociopolitical pain.”

Michael Atkinson, FIlm Comment