Ousmane Sembène’s ‘Black Girl’ Turns 50.

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Ousmane Sembène’s ‘Black Girl’ Turns 50

By A. O. SCOTT MAY 17, 2016

The Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène, habitually described as the father of

African cinema, was a lifelong critic of patriarchy. An avowedly political artist — he

had been a labor organizer and a novelist before turning to filmmaking — Mr.

Sembène grounded his attacks on colonial oppression and post-independence

corruption and compromise in a feminism that could be both subtle and blunt.

“When women progress, society progresses,” he remarked late in his career —

he died in 2007 — and the suffering and stoicism of women figure in all phases of his

work. His penultimate feature, “Faat-Kiné” (2001), is the portrait of a defiantly

independent entrepreneur in Dakar, Senegal, a single mother who refuses the

melodramatic options of pity or shame that would have been her conventional

cinematic fate. Mr. Sembène’s final movie, the indelible “Moolaadé” (2004),

followed a group of women in a rural village organizing to stop the traditional

practice of genital cutting. The empathy and the radicalism that animate those films

were present much earlier, in “Black Girl,” his first feature, which begins a weeklong

run at BAM Rose Cinemas on Wednesday before its release on DVD by Criterion.

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