1971-1980African CinemaArthouseDramaOusmane SembeneSenegal

Ousmane Sembene – Ceddo (1977)

Imagine, if you will, a story written for Akira Kurosawa. You know, one with armies clashing and sieges of great castles. Now imagine the story was done instead by a third-grade grammar-school class of about thirty people–the same heavy themes but where Kurosawa would show an army the play has to use two people. Instead of a castle there would be a tent. You would get a sort of “micro-epic.” Okay, now you have some idea what a “micro-epic” might be. Ousmane Sembene’s 1977 Senegalese film CEDDO is a very big film on a very small scale. The film, based on a true story, takes place in one village but it is still the stuff of epics.

In one small village in Senegal, three cultures are fighting for dominance: one worshiping the traditional village fetishes, one the new Islamic faith, and the third represented by two white Europeans. Admittedly, the latter are not so interested in converting souls as they are in trading guns for slaves. As the power shifts back and forth, more than one group decides it has to spend a few people on guns. The real catalyst of the events of the film occurs when three anti-Islamic villagers kidnap the daughter of the Islamic king. This starts a small-scale civil war that has a local band of Moslems (allies of the Islamic king against the anti- Islamic villagers) attempting to oust the king and seize control for themselves.

Although the film is set in the past, apparently at the time of both an ongoing Islamic and an early European penetration of traditional African society, its director, Sembène Ousmane, insists: “I can’t give a date. These events occurred in the 18th and 19th century and are still occurring” (1). Indeed, one crucial period for the expansion and consolidation of Islam amongst Wolof-speakers did not occur till after 1871 and the termination of the slave-trade. Thus, just as the village in the film is an exemplary microcosm of African (or at least West African) society in the throes of a crucial transition brought about by external pressures, and internal greed, ambition and dissension, so the time-span of the film (approximately a day and a half) offers an exemplary survey of two or more centuries of West African history.

1.62GB | 1h 56m | 732×458 | mkv


Subtitles:French hardsubbed, English

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