Dir. Ousmane Sembène
1971, Senegal, 91 min
French and Wolof with English subtitles
Seething with outrage, Ousmane Sembène’s Emitaï envisions both the cruelties of oppression and the revolutionary potential of the oppressed. During World War II, Marshal Pétain’s French forces and their African lackeys comb the Senegalese countryside, conscripting young Diola men into service and attempting to seize rice stores for soldiers back in Europe. Torn between allegiance to their silent gods and fear of fomenting a resistance of their own that might upset them, the tribe’s patriarchal leadership frays; meanwhile, the French humiliate the women of the tribe when they refuse to yield their harvests. With unflinching realism, Sembène explores the strains that colonialism places upon cultural traditions and, in the process, discovers a people’s hidden reserves of rebellion and dignity.
In celebration of his centennial year, the Dave Barber Cinematheque presents Janus Films’ retrospective of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène’s work, including three new 4K restorations of Emitaï, Xala, and Ceddo.
“If you are a human being—if you believe for one second that justice is a must, that equality is a must, that racism must perish, that colonialism must perish, that the dominance of money, of capital over other forms of creating happiness for humans must stop—then you must see all the films of Ousmane Sembène.” Aboubakar Sanogo, curator and professor, Carleton University