Interview with Ousmane Sembène, by Olivier Barlet

Paris, January 1998

Guelwaar, your last feature, was shown practically all over France: were you able to present it in Africa? I’m showing it in Senegal and in all of Francophone Africa. It’s being shown exclusively and in cinemas on the outskirts where the tax department inspects less frequently, which causes problems. As for France…Europe is not my centre and I’m less concerned about the success of my films there. But it was shown in festivals and on television in Germany, England, Belgium, etc. What did you want to tackle in this film? This film raises questions for the coming generations. It tries to demystify what is commonly called humanitarian aid. How many NGOs are there in Africa? What do they live on? After forty years of independence, Africa still hasn’t developed. Zaire, Congo, Liberia: it’s the jungle… Apparently, you are working on a plan on the African woman… Without women, there are no men and vice versa, but there is a society in which women have played a big role. For a time, women were minimized by Catholicism and Islamism but things are starting to change. In Africa, it is not women who need to be liberated but women who need to liberate men. I’m working on that subject. What topics would you like to tackle that you haven’t had the chance to? I’m not dead yet! Up until now, I’ve tackled every topic I wanted to. In this present period of accelerated changes, all topics are important. Everyday, in each city, there is something new. Each street corner, each front door is a topic for an artist! What do you think of the city/country debate at the centre of the discussions on black Africa cinema? I don’t ask myself those questions. You have the right to ask yourselves your questions in France and I have the right to ask myself mine in Africa! In your fi...

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