Ousamane Sembene | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ousamane Sembene 

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Retrospectives devoted to Alfred Hitchcock (at Block Cinema this fall) and Akira Kurosawa (at Doc Films) are always welcome no matter how often they occur. But Doc Films' complete screening of the work of Ousmane Sembene is an exceptional gift, considering how difficult it's been to see most of his nine features and four shorts. The father of African cinema, Sembene, who died in June at the age of 84, had a lengthy and distinguished career as a fiction writer before he made his first short around the age of 40. Hailing from Senegal, he worked as a mechanic and bricklayer and fought with the Free French in Africa and France before participating in a famous railway strike back in Dakar. Moving to France, he worked at a Citro'n factory, then for a decade as a Marseille dockworker, which formed the basis for his first novel, Le Docker Noir, published in 1956. Sembene was a masterful storyteller with a flair for both comedy and drama; he was also a highly political but consistently undogmatic commentator on what it means to be African. He showed a special feeling for his female characters in Black Girl (1966), Faat Kine (2000), and Moolaade (2004), but his blistering treatments of bureaucracy in Mandabi (1968) and foreign aid in Guelwaar (1992) are no less memorable. a University of Chicago Doc Films. --Jonathan Rosenbaum

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