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Dir. Ousmane Sembène
1975, Senegal, 123 min
French and Wolof with English subtitles

An adaptation of Ousmane Sembène’s own 1973 novel, Xala offers a hilarious, caustic satire of political corruption under an inept patriarchy. On the night of his wedding to a third bride, government official El Hadji Abdoukader Beye (Thierno Leye) is rendered impotent. After suspecting that one of his other wives has placed a curse (xala) on him, and after enlisting a local marabout for a cure, El Hadji must face the possibility that he deserves the infliction for his part in the embezzlement of public funds and for helping to keep Senegal in French hands. When even uglier reasons are revealed behind his loss of manhood, El Hadji endures a final ignominy from a group of disenfranchised citizens that he has conveniently overlooked. Adeptly combining elements from African folklore and popular cinema, Sembène uses Xala to indict the immoral hubris of entitled male authority figures and Senegalese sellouts.

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

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