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Black Girl (1966)

La noire de... (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 1966 (Senegal)
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A black girl from Senegal becomes a servant in France.

Director:

Ousmane Sembene

Writers:

Ousmane Sembene (based on a novella by), Ousmane Sembene
2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Mbissine Thérèse Diop Mbissine Thérèse Diop ... Diouana
Anne-Marie Jelinek Anne-Marie Jelinek ... Madame (as Anne-Marie Jelinck)
Robert Fontaine Robert Fontaine ... Monsieur
Momar Nar Sene Momar Nar Sene ... Diouana's Boyfriend
Ibrahima Boy Ibrahima Boy ... Boy with Mask
Bernard Delbard Bernard Delbard ... Young Male Guest
Nicole Donati Nicole Donati ... Young Female Guest
Raymond Lemeri Raymond Lemeri ... Old Male Guest (as Raymond Lemery)
Suzanne Lemeri Suzanne Lemeri ... Old Female Guest (as Suzanne Lemery)
Philippe Philippe ... Couple's Oldest Son
Sophie Sophie ... Couple's Daughter
Damien Damien ... Couple's Youngest Son
Toto Bissainthe Toto Bissainthe ... Diouana (voice)
Robert Marcy Robert Marcy ... Monsieur (voice)
Sophie Leclerc Sophie Leclerc ... Madame (voice)
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Storyline

A Senegalese woman is eager to find a better life abroad. She takes a job as a governess for a French family, but finds her duties reduced to those of a maid after the family moves from Dakar to the south of France. In her new country, the woman is constantly made aware of her race and mistreated by her employers. Her hope for better times turns to disillusionment and she falls into isolation and despair. The harsh treatment leads her to consider suicide the only way out. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Senegal | France

Language:

French

Release Date:

1966 (Senegal) See more »

Also Known As:

Black Girl See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is believed to be the first feature film made by a black African in sub-Saharan Africa. See more »

Alternate Versions

A 70 min. version includes a color sequence. It was cut to adjust to the length requirements of the French producers. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Uninhibited condemnation of Imperialism !!!
24 April 2017 | by avik-basu1889See all my reviews

On the one hand, 'Black Girl' is a very personal film about a young Senegalese girl who goes to France to escape her poverty stricken life in Senegal. But on the other hand, 'Black Girl' is also an immensely political film which tackles racism head on. This is a film which is narrow in terms of focus, but extremely broad in terms of its ambitions with its social and political relevance.

Sembène uses a non-linear screenplay structure and jumps back and forth between Diouana's present life in France and her past life in French occupied Senegal. Through the flashback sequences, we get to see how she took it upon herself to turn her back on the racism and the oppression that characterised her life in Senegal and move to the new land. But unfortunately moving to France for her ends up being nothing other than a journey from one prison to another. She becomes literally and figuratively imprisoned in the house of her employers. The mistress of the house tricks her into doing far more work around the house than she signed up for. The confinement and the complete disintegration of the dreams she had of the life she'd get to live in France gradually make her lose her spirit and her faith. This film underlines the notion that the poisons of oppression and racism with their roots in regressive imperialism have much more to do with mentality than geography.

As I have mentioned Sembène does a very good job of balancing the personal with the political/social. Although the film is very Diouana-centric, the social and political relevance is always the elephant in the room lurking around in the corner and Sembène will from time to time overtly allow the politics to move from the background to the foreground, for example there is a moment when three distinguish-ably dressed Senegalese men are shown to have a conversation about civil rights and the current political scene as Diouana walks past them. It is a scene that serves no purpose in the basic narrative of the film, but it serves a thematic purpose considering the political backdrop of the film. Although the film as a whole paints a bit of grim picture of the life of Senegalese and African people in a world still not completely beyond the grips of an imperialist attitude, Sembène still manages to end the film on a beautiful note for the future generations of Senegal. The ending sequence seamlessly blends the ideas of imperial guilt of Europeans and optimism with regards to reclamation of their rightful political power by the Senegalese people in the future.

'Black Girl' directly tackles racism and does so in a very uninhibited manner and it deserves all the praise for its intentions and its message. However, even though I admire the film for the nobility of its intentions, from a technical and storytelling standpoint, I do think it is a bit flawed. First of all the way Sembène uses the voice-over narration here really reminded me of Bresson's use of the same in the way that it is used for overtly expository purposes which always ends up leaving me a bit irritated and honestly the voice-over in many of the scenes in which it is used seems redundant. The best scenes in the film are the wordless ones when Sembène dwells on an image to evoke an emotion instead of Diouana explaining everything. Another flaw in the film is the quality of the acting. The acting gets a little too amateurish at times which prevents some scenes to have the most optimum emotional impact.

'Black Girl' deserves to be seen because of its political and social importance and relevance in Senegalese history and how it influenced the growth of personal, independent cinema in Africa. I don't think it is a flawless, perfect film, but I can't help but admire the themes, the intentions and the potency of its message.


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