Ousmane Sembène is a crucial name in the history of cinema. The first indigenous director to make films in sub–Saharan Africa, beginning in the 1960s, he is known — deservedly — as the Father of African Cinema, and yet his work is not as well known stateside as that of film pioneers from other parts of the globe. This intimate, insightful and often surprising documentary seeks to correct that. Sembène's life story is told in admiring yet clear–eyed detail, highlighting his remarkable resourcefulness in the face of a nonexistent local film industry in his native Senegal. In Sembène's 38–year career, he successfully made nine films, a staggeringly impressive feat given the incendiary, politically charged subjects he took on (as seen in his best–known film, 1966's BLACK GIRL, following a Senegalese maid's dehumanizing experience working as a maid on the glitzy French Riviera). With SEMBENE!, AFI audiences can get to know one of world cinema's most remarkable and fascinating artists. — Beth Hanna
Samba Gadjigo directed the documentary THE MAKING OF MOOLAADé, and is the world’s leading expert on the life and work of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène. He is the author of Sembène’s official biography.
Jason Silverman is an award-winning film producer and longtime festival director. He has produced large-scale events for the Smithsonian and Tribeca Film Festival, among others. He is currently cinematheque director at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe.