Best movies: La Noire de... (1966, also known as Black Girl), Mandabi (1968), Xala (1975), Guelwaar (1972), Faat-Kine (2000), Moolaadé (2004)
One of black film’s unsung heroes, the late Ousmane Sembène was a true pioneer, using cinema to broadcast the lives and struggles of African men and women, who, otherwise, wouldn’t have been given the platform.
Hailing from Senegal, Sembène started his career as an author, penning novels, like O Pays, mon beau peuple! (1957) and Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu (1960), centered on attacking the social injustices in his native country.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that his messages could reach wider audiences through the medium of film, and in 1963, Sembène discovered his behind-the-camera calling. From there, he made a series of profound cinematic works that, despite falling below the radars of international viewers, earned Sembène predominantly positive reviews.
Those looking to catch up with his filmography should start with 1966’s Black Girl (originally released as La Noire de…), Sembène’s first official feature, which follows a Sengalese woman who leaves her homeland to work for a heartless, tyrannical, and wealthy French couple. After that, move onto to 1992’s Guelwaar, a harrowing examination of how handouts from richer countries harmed Senegal’s residents.