New release of a brilliant movie

One of my favorite writers and directors, Sembène Ousmane, about whom I have previously posted when he passed away last year, directed a movie called “Camp de Thiaroye” which is coming out on DVD on November 11th.  I am so excited that I even pre-ordered it.

Normally I wouldn’t shamelessly plug something, I’m a fairly mellow consumer, but to most people, African cinema is so obscure that I feel like if speak up, there might be a couple more people in the world that know they have another choice besides a Hollywood flick for their entertainment.

There are a lot of reasons that these movies stay obscure.  People don’t like subtitles.  Non-Hollywood movies tend to move slower and so spectators used to rapid-fire action can’t sit still ’til the end.  These movies aren’t widely available (I haven’t checked Netflix) but you have to know someone to borrow them from or else order your own copy through Amazon (definitely worth owning!) The budget that an African director works with is so much smaller than what is available for a Hollywood film that the movie’s set, costumes and such sometimes seem amateurish compared to what spectators are used to.  And sometimes, people don’t want to view a new perspective of the world in a movie, they just want the same rehashed plotline with more cleavage and a bigger explosion.

But there is so much that the average American doesn’t know about the history of the world.  Did you know in the 1880’s the big European nations got together for the “Berlin Conference” and agreed who got which part of Africa, so that they didn’t waste their energy fighting each other over parcels but could focus their efforts on suppressing (that is a nice word for killing and enslaving) the indigenous African populations?  Did you know that many African nations got their independence in the 1960’s, but that Europe and the US essentially maintained control over the countries through puppet dictatorships (which Sembène shows clearly at the beginning of his movie “Xala”)?

The movie coming out in a couple of weeks, called “Camp de Thiaroye,” tells another important, and true, story, that of the soldiers from Senegal who fought alongside French soldiers against the Nazis.  The movie exposes what happened when the Senegalese soldiers returned home and were “rewarded” by the French.

I can’t say much else without spoiling the movie.  I wish I could hold a screening in my living room and invite everyone.  I feel it is so important for us to get outside our comfort zones and our narrow points of view and see the world through totally new eyes.  Sembène achieves this result, plus entertaining us, making us laugh, endearing us to characters, and amazing us with things we’ve never seen before.  Making us think and realize a new truth are just the icing.

If you somehow get a chance to see it, I highly recommend this movie.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “New release of a brilliant movie

  1. I don’t mind subtitles. Hub loves Japanese movies, so we’ve watched quite a few in subtitles. I hadn’t realized there were good African movies worth watching. Maybe Hub and I will have a whole new genre to watch now!

  2. Okay I got off my lazy behind and looked up Sembene Ousmane on Netflix (which I’ve never used before!) and they have six of his movies. If anyone is feeling adventurous, (Kween and Hub?) I would recommend starting with either “Faat Kiné” (one of his last films, about a single mother trying to provide for her two kids, very modern), “Black Girl” (about a young girl who goes to live in France with her French employers) or “Camp de Thiaroye.” I haven’t seen “Moolaade” but that is his last movie (2005) so it will be the most “modern.” It is about female circumcision, which is a disturbing enough topic that I have been able to put off seeing the movie the last three years, but one of these days… The other movie they have, “Mandabi,” is fascinating, it details a man’s troubles with the local bureaucracy, which we can all relate to, but I don’t think it’s the best one to start with.

    If anyone gets to see one of them, please comment or email me and tell me what you think!!!

  3. stacybuckeye

    I’ve never seen an African movie, but don’t mind subtitles. You’ve intrigued me enough for me to add one to my Netflix que. It will probably take several months for me to get there, but I’ll let you know when I do.

  4. Joy

    I love the idea of watching something different. I’m not a big movie watcher but I do like to watch them when it’s snowy or rainy on a long afternoon. I’ve written these down and will check them out. Thanks Elena.

  5. el burro

    Elena, just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten your invitation to meme. It’s on my Things I Really Want To Do list, along with the stack of unread books by me bed and the four movies my neighbor rented from the library which she lent to me and are due back Friday and I haven’t watched.

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