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Father of African Cinema’s Story Coming to Emerson

Ousmane Sembene, from SEMBENE!. Photo/

Ousmane Sembene, called the “father of African cinema,” is at the center of a documentary about his life, made by the man who knew it best.

SEMBENE!, co-written, co-directed, and co-produced by Sembene’s biographer, Samba Gadjigo, will be shown Friday, March 18, 7:00-10:00 pm, in the Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center.

The film will be followed by a discussion with Gadjigo, a professor of African Studies at Mount Holyoke College, and Emerson College Professor Claire Andrade-Watkins, a scholar of French- and Portuguese-speaking African cinema.

“We are excited to be hosting the Boston premiere of the award-winning documentary SEMBENE!, that is sweeping festival accolades around the globe,” Andrade-Watkins said.    

The documentary was nominated for two awards at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and one award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. 

Sembene, a Senegalese novelist and award-winning filmmaker, was kicked out of school at age 14, was drafted into the French army during World War II, and eventually ended up as a Marseille dockworker, where he became self-taught and active politically.

Between 1956, when he published his first poem, and his return to Africa in 1960, Sembene published three novels, but realizing that the written word would not adequately reach Africans, he switched to cinema, according to the film’s website. He studied at Moscow’s Gorki Studios, returned to Dakar, and in 1963, made his first short film, Borom Sarret.

Over the course of the next 40 years, Sembene produced a body of work that was thoroughly African, racking up awards in Cannes, Venice, Moscow and Los Angeles.

In SEMBENE!, Gadjigo and co-writer, director, and producer, Jason Silverman, used 100 hours of exclusive materials to tell the story of this groundbreaking storyteller.

Tickets are free and open to the public, but must be reserved online through ArtsEmerson. Sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies; with the President's Office; Office of Academic Affairs; Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing; ArtsEmerson; Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement; Department of Visual and Media Arts; and RTDNA. 

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