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Ousmane Sembène at 100: A Tribute to Senegal’s ‘Father of African Cinema’

Often touted as the ‘father of African cinema,’ Ousmane Sembène would have turned 100 on January 1st, 2023.  A prolific novelist and filmmaker, his long career can be divided into distinct periods, and he proved himself to be a master of self-reinvention. After studying cinema in Moscow, Sembène directed his first short film, Borom Sarret (The Wagoner), in 1962. A day in the life of a lowly cart driver, the film provides a stinging critique of the failures of independence in Senegal, cast as the transfer of power from one ruling elite to another. After a decade spent largely in the creative wilderness, Sembène experienced a late flowering from the end of the 1980s onwards. This saw him reach a new generation of audiences. His later works were less ambitious aesthetically but no less powerful. His masterpiece Moolaadé (2004) was a scathing denunciation of female genital mutilation in rural West Africa.