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Black Girl (1966)

A black girl from Senegal becomes a servant in France.
(NR, 65 min.)


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

7:00 PM

All Essential Arthouse films are Free for Members.

Ousmane Sembène, one of the greatest and most groundbreaking filmmakers who ever lived and the most internationally renowned African director of the twentieth century, made his feature debut in 1966 with the brilliant and stirring Black Girl (La noire de . . .). Sembène, who was also an acclaimed novelist in his native Senegal, transforms a deceptively simple plot—about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white couple and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a figurative and literal prison—into a complex, layered critique on the lingering colonialist mindset of a supposedly postcolonial world. Featuring a moving central performance by Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Black Girl is a harrowing human drama as well as a radical political statement—and one of the essential films of the 1960s. [Janus]

Starring: Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Anne-Marie Jelinek, Robert Fontaine
Director: Ousmane Sembene
Language: French
Genre: Drama

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"[An] intimate, straightforwardly realistic drama."

— Richard Brody, New Yorker

"Fifty-one years after its initial release, this seminal film remains hauntingly relevant."

— B! Media

"It’s a remarkable personal-is-political drama, set in barely postcolonial Senegal and France."

— Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

"Sembene keeps his metaphors under control, and the result is a message movie with an unusual depth of characterization."

— Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"Ousmane Sembène, in his first feature film, from 1966—which is also widely considered the first feature made by an African—distills a vast range of historical crises and frustrated ambitions into an intimate, straightforwardly realistic drama."

— Richard Brody, The New Yorker