In fact, the intensity of everyday experience captured through a minimalist “newsreel” palette of New Wave shooting (natural lighting, hand-held camera movements) and postsynced sound is precisely what lifts this movie well beyond the limits of a simple tract. We share Diouana’s giddy pleasure as she circles her neighbors telling them the news of her job and as she, to the grim disapproval of her boyfriend, skips barefoot over a colonialist war memorial in downtown Dakar labeled For Our Dead, a Grateful Nation–just as we share her subsequent humiliation in Antibes when her first letter from her mother, consisting mainly of reprimands, is read aloud to her by the French husband, who then proceeds to compose her “reply” in his own words when she fails to provide him with any. In all three cases Diouana’s naivete and ignorance are central to the scene’s meaning, but Sembene refuses to allow any cozy feelings of superiority–on our part or his. He also manages to work in plenty of irony regarding her boyfriend’s seriousness about the war memorial and her employers’ insensitivity about her illiteracy–without simply indicting them either. Everyone is criticized, but no one is stereotyped. When the French wife objects to Diouana wearing high heels in the apartment and Diouana responds by dropping them off in the center of the living-room carpet, the silliness and sadness of both characters registers with equal intensity. There’s a similar pathos in the husband’s efforts to assuage Diouana’s misery with wads of money. For all the simplicity of the materials and the fablelike aspects of the story, a complex and passionate intelligence is shaping the meaning in every scene.[ Jonathan Rosenbaum]
Extras: Short film: Borom Sarret- The first indigenous African film
Often cited by critics as the greatest film of the greatest African director. An astringently powerful and moving fable of the crushing weight of colonial rule as expressed through domestic servitude in Senegal and France.Hopefully somewhere in the world there is the missing color segment from an already (unwillingly) truncated film.