La Noire de... (a.k.a. Black Girl)

Dir: Ousmane Sembene. 1964. Starring: T. Diop, A-M. Jelinek, R. Fontaine. French. African Cinema/Black Cinema/Foreign.
La Noire de... (a.k.a. Black Girl)

Black Girl was the first feature length film made in Sub-Saharan Africa by an African which is why its director, Ousmane Sembene, was known universally as the "Father of African Cinema." He didn't end up being a prolific director, but he was one who regularly made amazing films up until his final film which came out which he made at 81, three years before his death in 2007.

Sembene began his creative career as an author but realized that he could reach a far larger audience with film. As a speaker of Wolof, his films would only be understood by Wolof speakers and the small audience which subtitles can reach (being problematic due to widespread illiteracy in Africa and further language barriers). To overcome these obstacles, Sembene used a cinematic solution, the employment of a highly visual style which owed more to Soviet aesthetics than to mainstream Hollywood or European films. It also suited his background as a Communist primarily concerned with social change. The thoughtfully-constructed visuals would convey his lifelong concerns with post-colonial identity, racism and later in his career, African corruption and negative cultural practices.

The plot of La Noire de... concerns Diouanni, a young girl from Dakar who finds employment with a rich French couple from Antibes. They take her back to France where she mistakenly imagines a more cosmopolitan life in store. Once there, she is patronizingly treated as an object in their apartment, a menagerie of African artifacts, and a source of exotification for her employers' friends. Her employers' interest in Africa doesn't extend to actual Africans except as mere artifacts and her claustrophobic existence in France closes in tighter and tighter before ending in tragedy.

Posted by:
Eric Brightwell
Feb 2, 2008 3:03pm
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