This year marks an important year in the history of African cinema, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the seminal film “La Noire De…” (“Black Girl”) by Ousmane Sembene, the “Father of African cinema,” which helped launch an era in film history that inspired many generations of artists.
In celebration, a newly-restored print of the film, digitally remastered, restored, and preserved, will be re-released in a theatrical tour around the country throughout the year. It’ll screen with “Borom Sarret” (1963), Sembène’s first film – a neorealist look at the rough life of a wagon driver who encounters a cross-section of Dakar’s inhabitants as he makes his rounds through the city’s streets.
The print was restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, in collaboration with the Sembène Estate, Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, INA, Eclair Laboratories and the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, CNC.
Worth noting is that films restored by the Film Foundation are eventually released on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD – which is especially wonderful for those who live in cities where the films likely won’t screen in local theaters.
At the center of “Black Girl” is Senegalese maid Diouana’s plight in Southern France, as it unfolds almost like a documentary, capturing the everyday mundanities of her monotonous life, and the resulting mental anguish she suffers, leading to the film’s tragic conclusion.
Underneath the deceptively simple story of a Senegalese maid (played by the lovely Mbissine Thérèse Diop), and her relationship with the white French couple she works for, reveals a film rich with symbolism and complexities that are essentially reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism – a recurrent theme you’ll find in much of Sembène’s work; as well as commentary on the untapped strength and abilities of African women.
A restored print of the film is certainly more than welcomed, and is one that is best seen in a theatrical setting on the big screen.
Other film masters of yesteryear whose restored works have been feted in recent years include Akira Kurosawa, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Manoel de Oliveira, and more.
Watch the crisp trailer for the restored “Black Girl” below: