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Marie Augustine Diatta,
Mame Ndoumbé Diop
During the Second World War, press gangs come to a small Diola village and take away the youths to fight for Marshall Petain. When they come back for fifty tons of rice, there's a battle of villagers armed with spears against soldiers armed with rifles. The surviving men retreat to their sacred space and debate the gods and action. The women are rounded up and made to sit in the sun.
The TCM host who spoke before the movie claimed writer-director Ousmane Sembene (1923-2007) was the first motion picture director based in Sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa, I wondered?). As a writer, he realized his works would be available to only the cultural elite. By making movies, he would increase the audience for his work.
There's a strong element of satire in this movie, as two of the army garrison argue about whether two-star General DeGaulle can command seven-star Marshall Petain. The Diolas seem likewise silly, with the men talking about their long patience after a day, and the women behave as if the soldiers are simply an inconvenience. Sembene's compositions are novel to my eye. Instead of using structures to border his interior spaces, he groups them by color. Notice how, in one early scene, the village leaders stand out from the background by their blue clothes, and the way the red caps of the soldiers make them look like bunches of ripe, red berries in fields of green or yellowed grass.
It is difficult for me to assess the excellence of this movie, since that requires context. It won awards at the Berlin and Moscow film festivals and was banned by the French because of its disrespectful view of French colonial authorities. I found it interesting, but whether because of its novelty or excellence, I cannot say.
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