Film

New 'Sembène!' Documentary Explores The Uncompromising Genius Behind The Father Of African Cinema [Exclusive Clips]

Watch two exclusive clips from the new feature-length documentary on Senegalese filmmaker and 'father of African cinema' Ousmane Sembene.


Ousmane Sembene and Samba Gadjigo (Screengrab from Sembène! Exclusive Clip #2)

“I will not let Sembene be forgotten.”

So says Samba Gadjigo, co-director and narrator of a new feature-length documentary about his colleague and close friend, the late Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene.

An official selection at the 2015 Sundance and Cannes festivals, Gadjigo and Jason Silverman’s Sembène! weaves together archival materials, new footage, animation and clips from Sembene’s films as it tells the story of the self-taught novelist and filmmaker’s rise from dockworker and fifth grade dropout to the “father of African cinema.”

The film officially opens at New York City’s Lincoln Plaza Cinema tomorrow. Ahead of the release, independent arthouse distributor Kino Lorber shares with us two exclusive clips from Sembène!.

In the first of the two videos, we see a glimpse of Sembene’s unrelenting work ethic.

“I am not unpleasant,” we hear the filmmaker say. “This is how I was born. It is others who see me as unpleasant.”

Meanwhile, the scene soon switches to Gadjigo reflecting on the self-destructive nature of his friend’s methods. “Sembene could not see," he says. “At every step he was on the brink of falling because he did not know where to put his foot. Although he was surrounded by far younger people, he outworked them.”

He adds, “I told him I think that you should take a break. He said, ‘After I die, I’ll have plenty of time to rest. Let’s go to work’.”

In another instance, we watch as Sembene films the reenactment of a young girl’s circumcision. For Sembene, “two minutes of her tears”–what the rest of his crew was deeming torturous–was justified if it meant “washing out the pain millions of girls are going through.”

In the second of the two clips, the film sheds light on Gadjigo’s relationship with Sembene and his seventeen years as Sembene’s “guide.” Setting up events with the auteur and his films at universities and festivals around the world, Gadjigo–Sembene’s official biographer–says he would always bring a video camera with him.

“I think when he came here, he just realized he was valued more outside of Senegal than back home,” says Gadjigo. “He had lost some self-confidence. Sembene gave me a second look, and he basically saw this young enthusiastic African scholar as a resource.”

'Sembène!' opens Friday, November 6, at Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York City. Keep up with the film on Facebook, Twitter and their official website . Head here for a full list of playdates.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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