[Lecture 16] Senegalese film for wiki 2012

Sub-Saharan African Cinema
and Ousmane Sembene’s Xala
Lecture 16
West Africa
Western Images of Africa?
Western Images of Africa
• The representational norm “is to use the
selectively photographed or fictionally created
exotica of Africa to create sensation, to titillate
the imagination, to transport the…consumer
to the wild, weird, and either wonderful or
terrifying Africa.” (from Africa on Film and
Effects of Representation?
• Ukadike: “The images the filmmakers projected of Africa
was to have a lasting effect, haunting not only the black
people of Africa, but also all blacks in the diaspora. Perhaps
there is no country that exhibits motion pictures in which
audiences have not seen a film of Hollywood origin, or a
Hollywood-inspired film, that caricatures the African as a
“savage” or a jungle “cannibal,” or that depicts the AfricanAmerican as as second class citizen who is inferior to his
white American counterpart. ‘Indeed,’ Robert Stam and
Louise Spence write, ‘many of the misconceptions
concerning Third World peoples derive from the the long
parade [in films] of lazy Mexicans, shifty Arabs, savage
Africans and exotic Asiatics.”
Ex: British Colonial Film Unit, 19391955
• Established under British Ministry of
• Established to make propaganda films that
would encourage African support for the war
• Made over 200 short films
• After the war, the films made were
instructional films meant for an African
• Mister English at Home (1940)
• Daybreak at Udi (1949)
Xala (Ousmane Sembene, 1974)
• Shaped by Frantz Fanon theoretical
• Based on a novel by Sembene, written in
• Aimed at a Senegalese audience
• Censored by the Senegalese government
Frantz Fanon, 1925-1961
Négritude, 1930s
• Artistic and intellectual movement initiated by
Francophone Black intellectuals and artists
• Begins in France to combat French domination
• Includes Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal),
poet Aimé Césaire (Martinique), Léon Damas
(French Guiana)
• Self-affirmation of blackness, “the black
Fanon on Post-independence
• Wretched of the Earth (1961)
– Takes aim at the national bourgeoisie (comprador
Allegory in Xala
Setting of the film:?
El Hadji:?
Dupont-Durand: ?
President of the Chamber of Commerce: ?
Gorgui and company:?
Rama: ?
Awa: ?
Oumi: ?
Ngone: ?
El Hadji’s impotence: ?
Allegory in Xala
• Setting of the film: Dakar-Africa
• Bust of Marianne: symbol of nation, allegory of Liberty and
• El Hadji: national bourgeoisie
• Dupont-Durand: Jean Collin-Post-independence European
• President of the Chamber of Commerce: Senghor-head of
• Gorgui and company: lumpenproletariat-”the people”
• Rama: Pan-Africanism-feminist critique of tradition
• Awa: tradition
• Oumi: Westernization-feminist critique
• Ngone and company: empty tradition
• El Hadji’s impotence: state impotence
On Xala
Novel vs. Film?
Film’s audience
Musical score
State censorship
Musical score has its
origins in the diegesis
State Censorship
• 10 cuts
– Removal of the bust of Marianne, symbol of the
French Republic
– Frenchman ordering police to push back crowd
– Attaché cases
– Frenchman conducting raid on beggars
– El Hadji’s statement to the Chamber before his
– Gorgui lecturing Awa about the life of prisoners
– Film’s ending
Clips from El Hadji’s address to the
Clip of the Final Sequence of Xala
Douta Seck (plays Gorgui)

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