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August 01, 2011

La noire de… (1966)

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"Black Girl is a 1966 film by the Senegalese writer and director Ousmane Sembène, starring Mbissine Thérèse Diop. Its original French title is La noire de…, which means 'The black girl of...', as in 'someone's black girl'" (spoiler at the first link).

In his pioneering 1966 film, Black Girl, the great Senegalese author and director, Ousmane Sembène, explores the complex dynamics of the immediate post-colonial period through the simple, devastating story of a Senegalese servant, Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop), and her relationship to the unnamed French couple (Anne Marie Jelinek and Robert Fontaine) who employ her.

The film's reversal of then conventional ideas about the narrative position of "subaltern" groups is today not only to be expected but cliché (not only in film but in all media including and especially advertising). Le noire de... is nonetheless fascinating to watch, perhaps more so now than when it was made, less for its polemic than its aesthetic. I had never seen a film with a nouvelle vague sensibility via Senegal.

That said, for all his purported - and apparently genuine - concerns about subject position and representation one cannot help but notice Sembène's choice of Mbissine Thérèse Diop for the lead rôle is as entirely conventional today as it was in the mid-1960s; she is luminously beautiful.

La noire de… (1966): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at August 1, 2011 07:48 AM