Mount Holyoke College Professor of French Samba Gadjigo, whose work on the renowned filmmaker Ousmane Sembène has gained worldwide acclaim, was featured in a recent edition of Take magazine.
Gadjigo chronicled the work and life of Sembène, the Senegalese filmmaker and writer widely regarded as an African film pioneer.
The Take article, “True Life Epic,” follows Gadjigo’s journey from a young boy with humble beginnings to his career as a filmmaker and educator.
Born in eastern Senegal, Gadjigo was the first in his family to finish grade school. Although neither his parents nor his siblings could read or write, Gadjigo moved 400 miles from home to attend a French high school in Senegal. He earned a master’s degree in French and African literature from the Université de Dakar in Senegal and his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1986—the same year he joined Mount Holyoke’s Department of French.
Gadjigo developed an interest in Sembène during high school, when he read his novel, God’s Bits of Wood. Sembène’s Black Girl, which won the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo award, was the first feature-length film produced by an African to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1966.
Gadjigo became friends with Sembène and was also his official biographer. Almost a decade after Sembène’s death in 2007, Gadjigo and Jason Silverman, a film director and producer, created the eponymous film Sembène! about the filmmaker’s 38-year career.
Sembène! has been shown at the Cannes Film Festival, the Sydney Film Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival, among others. It was shown for the first time in New England at Gamble Auditorium in Mount Holyoke College’s Art Building on November 13.
Read the full story in Take magazine here.