The historic first feature film made in Africa by a black African director, Ousmane Sembène’s Black Girl may be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but it’s no less trenchant and eloquent than it was upon its 1966 arrival. A sharp character study in the vein of Italian neorealism, and an incisive portrait of French-Senegalese postcolonial relations, Black Girl follows a young girl named Diouana’s move from Dakar to the French Riviera with the bourgeois white family who has hired her. Sembène, who got his start as an author and labor organizer, locates political gestures at their very seeds; in personal moments of impulse and morality, he tracks the gradual shift of Diouana’s temperament’s from optimistic to quietly defiant. Courtesy of a gorgeous new restoration from Janus, cinematographer Christian Lacoste’s stark frames deliver all of their original unmistakable symbolism, under the blindingly white sun of Antibes.
Dir Ousmane Sembène, 1966, DCP, 65 min.