Coffee Rhetoric: Senegal
Showing posts with label Senegal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Senegal. Show all posts

February 28, 2014

Revisiting the Film: Little Senegal

Updated review. Originally posted December, 2011


Last night while in the throes of insomnia, I decided to lull myself to sleep with a mini-movie marathon of sorts via Netflix. I watched and stopped several films before deciding on one: Little Senegal.  This film left enough of an indelible impression after I finished watching it; I was up until about 4:00 AM this morning mulling it over.
The Netflix reviews were ambivalent at best, suggesting it was dull, uninteresting, and that the acting was "wooden", however, as far as I'm concerned this reaction is par for the course from folks who don't have an emotional or vested interest in these types of films unless it's palatable and more along the lines of ‘magical negro’ fare with a white savior trope.

Little Senegal, a 2001 film directed by French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, was far from uninteresting. It explored elements of the African Diasporic, immigrant experience and was somewhat reminiscent of Haile Gerima's film Sankofa, in that it charts the history and effects of the Atlantic slave trade. While the main character in Sankofa— a self-absorbed, black fashion model living in the present-day— is forced back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, to experience the horrors of slavery and learns the importance of community and advocacy; the protagonist in Little Senegal, an elderly man named Alloune, researches his heritage and those of his ancestors who were kidnapped and sold into American slavery, prompted by his own curiosity.

August 15, 2011

Ousmane Sembène's 'Black Girl'

Since I'm one of the people that have little to no desire to see The Help and tried (to no avail) to finish Kathryn Stockett's book, I decided to re-visit a 1966 French classic from the New Wave era, called La Noire de... (or Black Girl). Written and directed by Senegalese filmmaker and auteur Ousmane Sembène (christened the Father of African film). 

La Noire de...charts the tragic story of Diouana, a young woman from Dakar who moves to Antibes, France to work for the wealthy French couple she nannied for during their time in Dakar. Excited, Diouana looks forward to taking in the sites of the Riviera and living a cosmopolitan life as she cares for her young charges, however, upon her arrival to Antibes she finds that her mercurial mistress has other plans for her... Diouana is treated harshly (much to the indifference of the man of the house) like a servant; not allowed to leave the confines of the apartment or wear any of the nicer clothes she brought with her. She's not paid in a timely fashion either. Aware of her exploitation in Antibes, a defiant Diouana starts to withdraw and becomes increasingly overwhelmed by homesickness and despair. 

Black Girl definitely touches on the effects of colonialism, post-colonialism, and racism within the confines of Europe and Africa. During one scene Diouana is asked to cook a traditional Senegalese dish for her employers- (she mentally notes that she never had to cook for them when she worked as their nanny in Dakar)- and their affluent friends during a gathering. They openly discuss her exoticism. One of the men excitedly jumps up and demands a kiss, as he's "never kissed a Black girl before." 
This film is subtle and the black and white cinematography is simple; yet La Noire de... is hauntingly tragic in its message, commands attention, and is definitely still relevant as it charts the devastating toll anti-Blackness, postcolonialism, and misogynoir takes mentally, emotionally, and physically.