The 2016 Illinois Wesleyan University Film Festival highlights the work of one of Africa's most admired filmmakers and authors, Ousmane Sembene.
The first African filmmaker to achieve international success, Sembene is the subject of a new critically-acclaimed documentary, which is also showing at the festival. Samba Gadjigo is the co-producer of the documentary, and he noted that Sembene first influenced him when he was still in high school. When Gadjigo read one of Sembene's novels, he discovered a voice that insisted on telling stories of real Africans.
"It made me aware not only of the issue of race, but the issue of class. and in the midst of all the media that show us one-sided stories, I thought Sembene's activism, his desire to use images, to give them a sense of responsibility and to empower them was something very, very powerful."
Gadjigo explaind that Sembene's work changed his life, and as as way of giving back, decided to create a documentary with his creative partner, Jason Silverman. "In my small way, I also hope to inspire people. That was the main motivation for making the documentary."
By focusing on stories of real Africans and not running stories through the prism of outside points of view, Sembene both inspired and antagonized those in the film business, Gadjigo said. "The establishment did not appreciate his view point. Several of his films were censored or even banned."
"Sembene had a strong and unbreakable faith in the African people. And he was also convinced that there cannot be political liberation, there can't be cultural liberation without economic liberation. He saw himself as someone who ought to do his share in that liberation of Africa. He thought art and culture were the best way to do it."