Sundance 2015: Sembene! is an Intimate Biography of the Father of African Cinema

By  · Published on January 27th, 2015

Sundance Film Festival

Often credited as “the father of African cinema,” Ousmane Sembène has nonetheless gone unknown to wider audiences, though his films are beloved by art house aficionados. There’s a lot to cover about his life, from his humble origin as the son of a dock worker to his time as a union activist in France, yet the biographical documentary Sembene! doesn’t seek to act as an easy introduction to him or his work. It treats the Senegalese director’s story as just that, a story.

That doesn’t sound like it should be an unusual approach, but by relating Sembène’s upbringing, development and evolving career while neither assuming the audience is already familiar with him nor simplifying anything for their benefit, the movie is treading fresh ground.