The Forge facilitated a conversation on African film by a Sembene screening, a story about the “Father of African Film” Ousmane Sembene.  

Multicultural community centre, The Forge commemorated novelist and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene through a screening of Sembene!, a documentary film  which looks at his life and times as an African cinema pioneer.  

Dubbed as the ‘father of African cinema’, Ousmane Sembene was born January 1, 1923, in Senegal. The writer and filmmaker was known for his political and historical themes. La Noire de… (Black girl), his 1966 feature film was considered the first major film produced by an African filmmaker.  

Sembene! Is a 2015 documentary film directed by Samba Gadijo and Jason Sliverman that looks at the life of Ousman Sembene in the form of interviews with Gadijo and archives of his films. Gadijo who also narrated the documentary was one of  Sebene’s closest confidants and the documentary follows their friendship. 

La Noire de… (Black girl) scooped a major prize at the 1967 Cannes International Film Festival. The film depicts the virtual enslavement of an illiterate girl from Dakar working as a servant for a French family. 

Co-director of public programs at The Forge and Commune, Mwelela Cele said that the film screening was inspired by Africa Day, Ousmane Sembene and filmmaker and writer Tsogo Kupa’s Sikelela Tapes and articles on Africa as a Country

The space has been holding screenings since 2021 every last Thursday of the month, but they were disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic. This was the first screening since the covid-19 restrictions were lifted.  

The screening was held at The Forge’s theatre on May 25, 2023. After the screening Tsogo Kupa, an internationally award-winning filmmaker, writer and Wits Film & Television graduate, engaged the audience in a discussion about the documentary and the issues surrounding the African film industry.  

Kupa says that “even to this day as Africans we don’t feel like we own the medium of cinema, we feel like it is an art form that was picked up by Europeans and Americans”.  

“Part of why we remember Sembene is to fight for the fact that we need to make his name well-known, and I think part of the reason why Africans feel like they don’t own cinema is because we don’t know of African masters of the medium”.  

Sazi Bongwe, a literature student at Harvard University who attended the screening says that there is a lot to take away from cinema, the screening and the film itself as someone who is invested in art.  

Cele told Wits Vuvuzela that The Forge will host another film screening linked to youth month at their theatre again in June 29, 2023. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Sembene! plays at The Forge’s theatre. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini