14 June 2017

Uganda: Ousmane Sembene's Documentary Finally in Uganda

He has been described as the father of African film, thanks to his daring visuals while telling stories.

Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene enjoyed a brilliant career that knew no boundaries of religion or politics. He scratched many backs and 'slept with the devil' for the sake of the story, becoming the first African filmmaker to get international recognition.

But even before his stint as a filmmaker, Sembene had already crafted his name in stone as one of the most sought after novelists, thanks to books including God's Bits of Wood, The Black Docker, Tribal Scars and Xala, which he later adopted into a film under the same title.

His story is told by Samba Gadjigo, a university professor inspired by Sembene's work before becoming his interpreter and, eventually, his biographer. The film starts with Gadjigo introducing himself, telling the story through his eyes and what he knew about Sembene.

The producers of Sembene embarked on telling his story by availing the documentary for screening to different African audiences both on the continent and in the diaspora.

The project codenamed Sembene Across Africa was aimed at celebrating his legacy by screening the film during the weekend of June 9 to 11 in different locations, as well as availing it on Vimeo.

Sembene died on June 9, 2007, thus Friday was exactly 10 years since his demise. Under Sembene Across Africa, the documentary also screened in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Senegal.

In Uganda, screenings were held at Maisha Gardens in Buziga on Saturday with two other screenings in Gulu and Moroto. The films tell a split image of Sembene; a genius but no saint. He tickled the authorities, the colonial masters, but in other times he was taking from those entrusted to him to mentor.

For instance, according to the documentary, his film Camp de Thiaroye, to many young filmmakers in Senegal at the time of its release in 1988, is a film he took from them. Apparently, the money he used to make the film was meant to help young filmmakers he was mentoring.

The documentary boasts of credible information from people that were close to the filmmaker like his son, Gadjigo and Sembene's long-term housekeeper; together they brought a number of testimonies about the man.

Sembene's vision was to see African cinema less reliant on Western influence, and the targeted screenings across the continent get the message across.

The 10-year anniversary celebration aside, the documentary is still traversing Uganda with another screening set for this Friday at Uganda's premiere documentary film celebration, Nteredde Documentary Showcase at Wizarts Media in Ntinda.

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