Black Girl (1966)

Black Girl




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The first major work of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene, this 1966 film is widely recognized as one of the founding works of African cinema. Diouanne Therese N'Bissine Diop, a young Senegalese woman, is employed as a governess for a French family in the city of Dakar. She soon becomes disillusioned when the family travels to the Riviera, where her comfortable duties as a nanny in a wealthy household are replaced by the drudgery and indignities of a maid. In a series of escalating … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Art House & International, Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 22, 2005

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Critic Reviews for Black Girl

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (4)

[An] intimate, straightforwardly realistic drama.

Full Review… | September 28, 2015
New Yorker
Top Critic

Mr. Sembčne makes his point neatly and dramatically.

Full Review… | October 22, 2007
New York Times
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 22, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The weakness of Black Girl is in its slow, journeyman style; one feels that Sembene learned filmmaking by making this film.

Full Review… | October 22, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

first major feature to surface in Africa

Full Review… | January 28, 2013
Old School Reviews

One of the great early films from Senegalese novelist turned filmmaker Ousmane Sembene.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Black Girl


[font=Century Gothic]"Black Girl" is an incisive allegory from Ousmane Sembene about the relationship between France and Senegal, made shortly after Senegal's gaining its independence. Diouana(Mbissine Therese Diop), like many others in Dakar, is unemployed and looking for work. Luckily enough, she finds work as a nursery maid for a French couple(Anne-Marie Jelinek & Robert Fontaine) who have three young children. At the beginning of her employment, Diouana brings them a native mask as a gift. When they move back to France, they bring along Diouana but they mislead her as to what her responsibilities will be, leaving her to feel exploited and trapped inside an apartment all day long as she is separated both from the vibrant France she imagines and the support system she left behind in Senegal. To add to this, she suffers the condescension and lack of respect from the other French people she encounters as she serves them at the dinner table.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer


I've often thought (and sometimes have stated) that for a film to truly succeed it must have a powerful ending. Whether that power be found in deeply profound thought, or emotional resonence, does not matter. All that matters, to a degree, is how you end a film. Black Girl ends on a profound thought which translates into a strong emotional pull.

Black Girl is about a young Senegalese woman named Diouanne who is brought over from her native land to work for a French couple (in their native land) under the false pretenses that she would be caring for the couples children. When she arrives, full of excitement and romance about her new home, Diouanne is quickly struck with the reality of her new station in life. She is a white woman's servant. Feelings of mutual animosity rise between the two women expressed in the white woman's outward attitude toward the help, as it were, while Diouanne keeps her mouth closed and seathes from the inside. Eventually, enough becomes enough and Diouanne decides that she will be no one's slave and takes a final drastic measure to ensure that she never will be again.

The final images of Black Girl are what have stayed with me. The white woman's husband who has traveled back to Senegal in order to settle matters with the young woman's family attempts to pay for the life of Diouanne who had taken her own life in the man's bathtub. Bringing with him the woman's wages and a traditional mask (given to her by her mother upon leaving for France), he attempts to atone for the sins of him and his wife. The mother refuses the money, turning away in disgust. A little boy retrieves the mask and places the grotesque visage upon his own. As the man walks away in confusion the little boy follows Diouanne's former employer as if the spirit of her ancesters were haunting his every ignorant step. He looks back, unable to shake the image from his past. At last, he gets in his car and drives away without ever confronting his own prejudice, no matter how begnine it may have appeared against his wife's overt disgust with this woman who was, in her eyes clearly beneath her.

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