On June 10, the award-winning documentary film SEMBENE! will be screened in Accra, Ghana at Jamestown Cafe as a part of The Sembene Across Africa project, a three-day series of free public screenings, house parties and free streamings. SEMBENE! celebrates Ousmane Sembene, the “father of African cinema,” who spent decades shaping a meaningful, visionary cinema for a newly independent Africa.
SEMBENE! premiered in competition at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, has screened throughout the world, and was included in seven best-of-2015 lists, including a top-ten-of-2015 notice from New York magazine.
To date, more than 90 public screenings in 30 countries have been confirmed, with more venues being added on a daily basis. All screenings are provided free of charge with funding from the Ford Foundation, the Sundance Institute, and grassroots efforts.
The project is motivated by Sembene’s desire—unfulfilled in his lifetime after 50 years of focused work—to return African stories to the African people. For decades, during Africa’s colonial period and until African independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, European-run schools, newspapers, TV, movies and languages were Africa’s dominant cultural forces. African culture was criminalized and marginalized, and many Africans lost connection with their past.
Starting with his first film, Borom Sarret, completed in 1962, Sembene set out to use movies as what he called “an evening school” for Africans. His works revisited history from African perspectives, called out corrupt leaders and celebrated what he called “the heroes of the everyday.”
Sembene spent 50 years making films and writing books in a tireless and forceful attempt to reorient Africans after generations of colonization. Unfortunately, 10 years after his death, Sembene—a true hero of cinema and of self-empowerment—remains unknown to most young Africans.
Similarly, the award-winning biographical documentary SEMBENE!, despite been publicly exhibited, streamed and broadcast around the world, remains difficult for African audiences to access. #SembeneAcrossAfrica is a focused, continent-wide event that will celebrate Sembene’s message of self-empowerment, ownership of one’s own culture and Panafricanism.
“Sembene Across Africa is designed to inspire anyone working for African progress,” said Samba Gadjigo, the director of SEMBENE! and Ousmane Sembene’s official biographer.” This project represents a giant step towards our primary goal: to inject Sembene’s essential legacy of engaged, empowering and progress-minded storytelling back into the African consciousness. Using the new tools of cultural empowerment—digital delivery, social media, grassroots organizing—we hope to share Sembene’s powerful story across an entire continent, to the large audience that will appreciate SEMBENE! the most.”