Black Girl (1966)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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 confrontations with her mistress (Anne-Marie Jelinek), Diouanne is painfully reminded of her racial identity. She is caught in the tension between the French upper-class and post-colonial West Africa and finds herself alienated from both worlds. Along with narration and dialogue in French, this film also shares the sparse tone and visual style of French cinema of its period. Nevertheless, the influence of Sembene's European counterparts does not diminish this subtle but striking examination of racial and cultural prejudice. ~ Jonathan E. Laxamana, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Black Girl
Sembene keeps his metaphors under control, and the result is a message movie with an unusual depth of characterization.
The weakness of Black Girl is in its slow, journeyman style; one feels that Sembene learned filmmaking by making this film.
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]
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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