Ousmane Sembene’s Press Conference

Fespaco, Wednesday 27 February 2001

On Faat Kine
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I am old, but I hate gerontocracy. I don’t hold the truth! You see women selling peanuts, oranges, etc. in the African capitals. Who are they? What do they do? When I was in Guinea, there were a lot of women and children among the refugees… How many streets in Ouaga, Dakar, Yaoundé, or Bamako are named after women? Apart from princesses… Africa has no future without women. But they are more greatly affected by poverty, by globalization. Lack of work is the real problem.
What is our future in Africa? That is what I’m working for! Faat Kine resembles all women. How many abandoned women are there? There is a degree of freedom in Africa in the form, but you aren’t really free. Trousers on the brain, that’s what authority is. At night, you are worse than before. Men have to understand that women have the same rights!
Ancient statues always represented men and women. Women have disappeared from representation ever since we adhered to the Christian civilization!
I repeat: cinema is a night school! A society that does not exude a new culture is bound to die. Jig about girls and boys, the cicada do it every night! That’s not culture! Our governments invest in football. It’s good for the muscles…
I shot the film in French because that is the reality of the African towns. Grandmothers are excluded when we speak French. When I was a child in Africa, it was the grandmothers who held knowledge. We have nothing to learn from Europe, apart from its technology. Africa needs balls, and not the elephant’s balls!*
Faat Kine gets married in the end because things are very hard for single women in our countries. Being single is not easily accepted for women. It’s a real moral commerce. A successful woman, lawyer, architect, etc. has to marry to be successful! Only women can resolve this problem.
If a woman wants to live on her own and bring up her children, that’s fine with me! I don’t have a fixed position on this. If I went to the mosque or church, I would ask myself the question, but it isn’t an issue for me!
Africa of the past will never come back! We can see Bambara, Mooré culture, etc. blending. That is the new African culture! We are building a new Africa out of the positive elements gathered here and there! Our politicians speak of African unity, but it is more and more difficult to cross the borders! Analyse the films at the Fespaco: that’s the new Africa! But it is the people of Burkina who are our hosts at the Fespaco! Imagine the president wanting to do away with the Fespaco. Imagine the reaction of the Burkinabè people!
What should we do? Isn’t it your responsibility to think for yourselves? There will always be bastards who kill their wives! That won’t suddenly stop! An elderly experienced woman once said to me that men like horizontal, not vertical women! Don’t expect any answers from this elder! You have the answers! Which? I don’t know!
We have reached the point of creating a new culture! But we don’t have the answers. There are centuries of extermination, of assuagement behind us that we find it hard to shake off! We have to move forwards, and that is traumatic!
Lumumba, Nkrumah, Mandela’s portraits – Sankara could be there too – they are the people of our History, they are our references! Not the Gauls!
I am still convinced that we will be triumphant. We will continue to produce children, even illegitimate ones! I prefer victorious bastards to legitimate people who give in!
A woman who brings up her children on her own faces the same inconveniences as a man, but not the same advantages! I have a maid who looks after my house and three children. My big sister is there too, but the children are closer to the maid! I am against marriage, but that’s personal!
I do not claim to speak about Senegal, but about Africa. I have spent my whole life bugging people and I enjoy it! I did my research. I have learnt a lot of things with age. A fine woman came to see me in Dakar and said: « Mr Sembene, you are beneath the reality ». She had six children. I was sorry not to have recognized this earlier.
I will shoot the third part of this trilogy in rural Burkina. That will require some research, and for me to blend in with the people of the Banfora region. It doesn’t matter how much time is spent preparing a film. What matters to me is to bug people!
Our governments are not committed to distributing our cinema. I can give you Faat Kine if you want, on the condition that you screen it! It isn’t the filmmakers who hold back the films. It’s the governments who don’t show them! There is a film library here where we depose a copy of our films for free. When are they seen? Culture disturbs. They don’t want us to think.
I am against force marriages! You see old men marrying twelve-year-old girls. It is paedophilia. Our culture is criminal! In Dakar, you can call the circulars’cellular phones: you can order women on your mobile. They come to your home!
You think the West brought prostitution in Africa? No!
Samory Touré? I cannot make this film until I have the money!
The leading actress has never been in film before. I think she does very well. She is not a professional. This role is practically her life. She didn’t act, she performed her life! We have Western style trained actors: they play Molière better than peasant farmers.
Europe is not my reference, my tropism (you know, the sunflower that follows the sun…).
We have nothing to learn from Europe. Europe earned what it has by working, by killing one another! There are more crooks in Europe than here! Listen to the news. Bush: we should have sent African observers! I don’t have anything against Europe. What irritates me is that it is everyone’s reference, that’s all!
For me, it is a market, just like America or Asia!
My film isn’t in the competition? I don’t claim to think I would have won, but I simply say: make way for the youngsters!

* Translator’s note: a reference to the Fespaco’s inaugural film, Les Couilles de l’éléphant (The Elephant’s Balls), which was decried by many. (cf. Olivier Barlet’s account of the Fespaco).///Article N° : 5633


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