Kino Eye: A post-colonial film from Senegal

Submitted by AWL on 25 May, 2021 - 5:22 Author: John Cunningham

Ousmane Sembene of Senegal, a former French colony, was one of Africa’s pioneer filmmakers. His 1975 film Xala is set at the time of the colonial power’s withdrawal. The main character, businessman Aboucader Beye (known as “El Hadji”), becomes one of the new elite. He is utterly corrupt and accepts backhanders from French financiers. He already has two wives and marries a third, much younger than himself, a move which angers and upsets the older pair and Rama, his politically active daughter. She is opposed to the corruption of the new bourgeoisie which, of course, includes her father. She speaks Wolof rather than French while admiring the anti-colonial fighter Amílcar Cabral. On his wedding night El Hadji discovers that a xala (a “curse”) has rendered him impotent. The film then depicts his hilarious and pathetic attempts to have the xala lifted. Finally, he submits to a humiliating ritual at the hands of a group of street beggars (who actually put the xala on him in the first place). The xala disappears.

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