By Emily Harrison Weir
Sembène!—a documentary about the late Ousmane Sembène, the first African to make films in Africa about Africans—has been invited to one of the world's most prestigious film festivals.
Mount Holyoke College Professor of French Samba Gadjigo codirected the film with Jason Silverman, and both will travel to Cannes, France, for the May festival. Sembène! will be shown just before a newly restored print of Sembène's most famous film, La Noire de … (Black Girl) is screened in the Cannes Classics series.
From an early age, Gadjigo saw Sembène as a role model. Later, the Senegalese writer and filmmaker's work became the focus of Gadjigo's scholarship for two decades. Before Sembène's 2007 death, Gadjigo said he had become Sembène's "biographer, his agent, his friend and confidante, and his adoptive son."
The documentary made its debut this past January at the Sundance Film Festival, where it sold out all six showings, received positive reviews, and moved some audience members to tears, according Gadjigo.
"I was touched that many people came to me crying and saying how moved they were by the film," he said. "I was very happy that our social message was well received. And Sundance opened lots of possibilities for us."
His new goal is to take the film back to his—and Sembène's—home continent, Africa.
"We were telling the story of an African filmmaker, but it turned out also to be the story of an achievement that touches people throughout the world," Gadjigo said.
• Related article: Read more about how Ousmane Sembène changed Samba Gadjigo's life.
• Read the Amherst Bulletin article about Gadjigo's Cannes screening.