Ceddo (1977) Poster


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Not Slow for the Vulnerable Observer
worldtyrant13 May 2004
Ceddo is one of the first films to come out of Africa (it was promptly banned in Senegal). It contains both subtle and not-so-subtle political messages in the conversations of characters fighting to keep their traditional way of life. The film holds a wealth of information that the casual eye might not catch. Linguists and other language buffs will enjoy the form and styles of speech (no one speaks directly to those of higher class, a major form of communicating ideas is to use metaphorical sayings, etc.). Those fascinated by culture will notice the myriad customs that might go unnoticed to other viewers. It is a film of revolt! Highly recomended.
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A complex examination of African history.
Rigor30 August 1998
The Great novelist and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene create a complex text about the early colonialization and enslavement of African people. A searing critique of "pre-european" colonization and exploitation. The film is a must see for anyone interested in the art of cinema and/or the politics of liberation.
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Strong statement of cultural resistance Warning: Spoilers
In this movie Islam is shown as a religion that strips people of their identity. We see a village (in what is now Senegal) of ceddos being stripped of their clothes, their hair, and finally even their names, each being 'reborn' as Muslims, their heritage and culture in the dust. It is fitting that at this point that the mighty Wolof princess Dior Yacine leads the final uprising.

There is much to please about this movie. In it people speak without being interrupted, they speak their minds, and they speak in turn. Such is wisdom. It is very refreshing to see dialogue like that. The entire movie is presented with ritual solemnity, and whilst it is perhaps not as ecstatic and encrusted with mysticism and ritual as say a movie by Paradjanov there are certainly images to savour and, what's more, the message is more easily prised from this movie.

My favourite shot is the image of the dead kidnapper being buried in his shooting stance, bow in hand. The death of the kidnapper is immediately followed by a vision of Dior Yacine in which she offers a bowl of water to the kidnapper, and reveals her love. I felt the delight that it must be to slake the thirst of one's lover. We in Europe retain no such tender ritual.

Sembene's criticism of Christianity is less clear. It seems that he associates the priest with the white rifle dealer though the circumstances of this relationship are obscure and both are entirely mute throughout the film. In what is a troublesome scene the white priest has a vision of converting the king's nephew (and heir under traditional, as opposed to Sharia law), who then becomes a bishop and presides at the priest's funeral. Another reviewer had a problem with this scene, and many in the cinema where I saw Ceddo were bemused and a few snickered. The priest's (unfulfilled) wish can be seen as either the arrogance of Christianity, or as a sublime dream. The problem with it is chronological, the scene is meant to be far in the future but Madir Fatim Fall has not aged, nor has the priest. Most would characterise this as amateurish, I simply don't know the feasibility of doing his scene for Sembene who obviously was on a limited budget.

Traditional Wolof ways are not unchallenged. The king Demba War is shown as weak and impotent, whilst the nobles are shown as self-serving fools who sell the country and themselves into ruin. Ceddo therefore can be seen as strongly in support of traditional cultures but also highly critical of both traditional and alternative power structures. It is perhaps the most powerful criticism of Islam available because it comes from the oppressed rather than the oppressor.
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Good, if a tad slow
zetes26 August 2012
An interesting picture, though a tad slow. Three cultures, the ceddo, the Christians and the Muslims are tensely struggling for power in rural Africa. The ceddo (which means "outsider") have kidnapped the king's daughter because they are sick of having to kowtow to the power-hungry imam (the film is surprisingly unkind toward Islam, and was actually banned for that reason in Sembene's native Senegal). I loved the colors and the music. The story is good, but there are a few too many sequences of the characters sitting around debating the various merits of their religions (which amounts to, "If you don't believe what I believe, you're going to Hell!"). That stuff gets old quick.
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A bit slow, with some surprises. - MINOR SPOILERS
ceylon-121 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The plot is somewhat slow to develop, due to some extended dialog scenes in the beginning of the film. These scenes serve a purpose however, setting the pace and flavor of the place and period portrayed. The characterizations in the film were both stereotypical and surprising. The Imam, the Hunter-Hero, the dispossessed Heir, the new Heir, there are all standard character types, but each is treated a little differently than one might expect.

Especially odd is the Hunter-Hero, who is often analogous to the cowboy in the American Western film (rides in from the wild, solves the problem, rides off into the wild again) is treated very differently. The Imam is a bit typecast from the beginning. The physical appearance of the actor makes it clear that the Imam will be cast as a villain very early in the film. Finally, the heir never redeems himself, but simply fades out of the scene, returning in the background, but never as a person who affects the plot in any real way.

The only scene in the film that caused me any real concern was the scene where Madior Fatim Fall is sitting in the church. The white priest has what is apparently a vision of the future, with many African priests, and what seems to be the white priest laying in a coffin. It goes so quickly that I wasn't sure what has happening, except the possibility that the priest was seeing a vision of himself as a saint, preserved from corruption, for converting all the Africans. Because it is a rather jarring jump to modern times, by the time I had really recovered from my surprise, the scene was already fading back into original setting.
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genuine class
russellcraigr26 July 2002
the dream of cinema becoming (again) a world language has always seemed to me to cover a sadder loss - which language? almost certainly, mainstream narrative well - watch this film and see another way of doing things it's funny, profound, conversational, slow (??? do the other people mean long takes?? the film is not slow at all) and timeless and the colours and the central position of Woman and - yes - the rigour of Sembene make this (still 30 years on) a landmark of world cinema and so light a man with trousers of fat should not stand close to the fire right
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jboothmillard14 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I found out about this Senegalese (in West Africa) film in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, there were very few critics reviews to read about it, so I had to judge it for myself, directed by Ousmane Sembène (Moolaadé). Basically the story is set in the 17th century in Senegal, after the establishment of a European presence in the area, but before the imposition of direct French colonial administration. The Ceddo ("commoners") try to preserve their traditional African culture against the onslaught of Islam, Christianity, and the slave trade. Local king Demba (Matoura Dia) is siding with the Muslims, in protest against the forced conversion to Islam, the Ceddo abduct his daughter, Princess Dior Yacine (Tabata Ndiaye). Various heirs to the throne are killed when trying to rescue the kidnapped princess, and Demba War is killed during the night. Eventually the kidnappers are killed, and the princess is brought back to the village to confront the religious leader, just as all the villagers are being given Muslim names. The princess is the catalyst in a power struggle involving guardians of tradition, missionaries, and slave traders. Also starring Mamadou Dioumé as Prince Biram, Omar Gueye as Jaraaf and Ismaila Diagne as the Kidnapper. The film was banned in Senegal for its presentation of the conflicts between the Islamic and Christian religions and ethnic and traditional beliefs. To be honest, I couldn't follow the full story, because the action was so slow, for me it was worth seeing for the landscapes and African culture, mostly it was boring, but not a terrible drama. Okay!
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More important than when it was first made
popshrink16 March 2002
Ok - Ceddo starts slow and I'm as impatient as the next guy - even if that was then, this is 25-yrs after. No matter.

In a second recent viewing, the RC Missionaries were just as fanatatical, greedy and stupid as I'd recalled. The Muslims were as fanatic, greedy and eager to turn a buck (dinar?) by selling off any Senegalese who disn't - WHAM! - adopt Islam. Buyers were slave-trading Portuguese RCs who hadn't been quite dumb enough to be slaughtered earlier in the flick by the invading Osama-style Muslims.

Henry Louis "Skip" Gates of Harvard may have missed "Ceddo" - but Skip appears to get the point. Maybe. My three kids - Herself and li'l Kobe and MJ - me harder sells. But they're at "that age." Fine: they think I'm at "that age," too. Again, no matter.

See it!
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