It just came to our attention at Kamera that Ousmane Sembene, the Senegalese filmmaker and pivotal figure of African post-colonial cinema, died at his home in Dakar, Senegal, on 9 June. He was 84 and one of the finest directors in the world.
Sembene was born in 1923 in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. At 14 he moved to Dakar and then to France. His experience as a docker in Marseilles furnished him with the material for one of his books, the acclaimed The Black Docker (1956). His film career stretched back to the 1960s as an expansion of a literary career. He turned to film because he saw in the medium a potential to reach more people.
"Black Girl" (1965), his debut feature, is seen by many as the first African film. It combines realism and traditional African narrative to tell the story of Diouana, a young woman who commits suicide after traveling to Europe with her French employers. This is a theme he pursued in his films: the tension between tradition and modernity and women's role in society. He exposed colonial damage with tenderness and a profound respect for African culture.
His last film, Molade (2004), dealth with the subject of female circumcision, a heavy subject by any account but which Sembene managed to handle with typical warmth and humour.