Sunday, December 8, 2013

La Noire de... (Sembène, 1966): Mini-Film Review

Ousmane Sembène’s black and white film Black Girl (La Noire de...), produced in 1966, traces the life of Diouana, an African woman who arrives in France to work as a house worker for a French family that she originally worked for in Senegal. This tragic, brief film eloquently represents a microcosm of the effects of colonialism while granting subjectivity to the protagonist who narrates the film. Describing her state of confinement and repression, she states at one juncture: "Back in Dakar they must be saying: 'Diouana is happy in France... She has a good life.' For me, France is the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom and my bedroom."

I currently teach this film in my Postcolonial Literature course, and it was first introduced to me in an excellent graduate course on the politics of migration in cinema. This film by Sembène also features in a comparative chapter of my forthcoming book in which I frame Bai Jingrui's 1970s Taiwan film Home Sweet Home within a wider context by placing it alongside two concurrent films that represent migration on the global stage: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf) and this 1966 film by Sembène. The film is very much worth tracking down and checking out.

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