Samba Gadjigo

Helen Day Gould Professor of French
French-speaking Africa; African cinema

Samba Gadjigo's research focuses on French-speaking Africa, particularly the work of filmmaker Ousmane Sembene. Gadjigo’s 2015 documentary, Sembene!, co-directed by Jason Silverman, is a biopic focusing on Sembene’s life and work, exploring the themes developed in the biography through interviews and extensive footage from Senegal, Burkina Faso, and France. In 2001, Gadjigo was instrumental in bringing the Senegalese filmmaker to MHC for screenings and discussions of his work.

Sembene! was a finalist for the Camera d’Or in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, winner of the Jury Prize at the 2016 Luxor Film Festival, winner of the Prix de la Jeuness at the 2017 Escales Documentaires de Libreville, winner of the Paul Robeson Prize at the 2016 Newark Black Film Festival, and recipient of the Prize for Best Documentary at the Emerge Film Festival. In 2017, Gadjigo and Silverman obtained funding through the Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute, and a Kickstarter campaign to hold 130 public screenings of the film in over 38 countries between June 9-11, 2017 for their Sembene Across Africa project.

In 2016, Gadjigo received the Faculty Award for Scholarship in recognition of his “international, multi-disciplinary career—a career throughout which his own story-telling has merged with that of Sembene’s, interweaving African literature, film, history, politics, and indeed these with language and with life itself.” 

Gadjigo's writing has appeared in African Cinema and Human Rights, Research in African Literatures, and Contributions in Black Studies. In an article in African Journal on "Trends in African Cinema," Gadjigo argues that the future of African cinema is still unclear. "There are very talented individual filmmakers, and some of the works are very sound artistic contributions to world cinema, and yet our screens are still colonialized and one ought to wonder what the future of African cinema will be in the context of a 'globalized' world."

In addition to his course offerings in the French department, Gadjigo is a member of the Africana Studies program faculty.

Recent Campus News

Professor of French Samba Gadjigo.  Photo by John Martins.

Giving papers in France and Senegal

The French professor from Mount Holyoke gave a paper and sat on a panel at a conference.

Photo of the top of the Mount Holyoke gate with fall leaves surrounding it

Four MHC professors receive faculty awards.

Professors in physics, French, history, and economics were honored with faculty awards for their outstanding research and teaching at Mount Holyoke College.

Professor of French Samba Gadjigo.  Photo by John Martins.

Professor’s film recognized internationally.

Professor Samba Gadjigo, whose documentary, Sembène!, has gained worldwide acclaim, is featured in the Albuquerque Journal and on Radio Télévision Swiss.

Professor of French Samba Gadjigo.  Photo by John Martins.

Professor's film to screen at Cannes Festival.

Samba Gadjigo's film Sembène!—which celebrates the “father of African cinema"—was a hit at Sundance and is now part of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Gadjigo’s film, “a voice and vision for Africa.”

The Hampshire Gazette profiled Mount Holyoke professor Samba Gadjigo, whose film about an African film pioneer tells a “story that almost defies belief.”

Recent Mentions in the Media

Recent Honors

Just completed a series of film screenings in 22 African countries from October 19 – 25, 2020, with the goal of getting African stories back to Africans and summed up in the phrase: “Some say we are made of flesh and blood but we believe we are made of stories.” 

Gave a talk at Google headquarters in Seattle on October 19, 2019. He also had a screening and Q&A at University of Washington and a screening at the Langston Hughes cultural Center in Seattle in October, 2019.