sat 18/05/2024

DVD: Black Girl | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Black Girl

DVD: Black Girl

Stirring story of racism from pioneer of African cinema

Marie-Thérèse M'Bisine Diop as Diouana

Ousmane Sembene is one of the pioneers of African cinema. Black Girl, the film that brought him international renown, has been beautifully restored for this DVD release, so that it looks as sparkling as when it was released in 1966.

The strength of this film is derived in large part from the potent creative forces that were unleashed when Senegal became independent, and was ruled by the visionary politican and poet Léopold Senghor.

The simple but powerful story of a Senegalese woman who takes a job as a nanny in the South of France, in the hope of enjoying the promises of the former colonial power, is told with minimal means. This was a case of budgetary constraints making for a riveting distillation of emotion. When she gets to France, Diouana is put to work as a bonne à tout faire, little more than a slave. Ground down by her employers, not least the stay-at-home wife who treats her as little more than an animal, she becomes increasingly depressed, and eventually takes her own life.

Thérèse M’Bisine Diop, in her first role as the enslaved domestic servant, displays extraordinary presence, an impassivity which, under the pressure of suffering gradually morphs into despair. The music in the film – in an almost didactic role – is a little too present: a persistent piano ditty reminiscent of Jacques Tati and Nino Rota, a pastiche of dull European modernity on the one hand, and passionate kora and African vocals to suggest the soul of Diouana’s nostalgia and inner world, on the other.

This DVD package is full of treasures – including a magnificent interview with actress Diop, documentaries about Sembene, and his first film Borom Sarret.

This was a case of budgetary constraints making for a riveting distillation of emotion


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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