Ousmane Sembène (Senegal,1977)
Ceddo (pronounced Ched-doe) is perhaps the most important film that black Africa has produced to date - a national epic that bears the same definitive relationship to its culture that Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, Renoir’s La Marseillaise, Mizoguchi’s The Taira Clan Saga, or Eisenstein’s Potemkin and Alexander Nevsky do to theirs. An exciting political thriller concerning the kidnapping of a beautiful princess is used to examine the confrontation between opposing forces in the face of Moslem expansion. The “Ceddo” - or feudal class of common people - cling desperately to their customs and their fetishistic religion. “You are a palm tree,” one of them accuses the king after his conversion to Islam. “You give no shade to your roots.” Set loosely in the 19th century, Ceddo is not strictly a historical film. It ranges far and wide to include philosophy, fantasy, militant politics, and a couple of electrifying leaps across the centuries: in this, his most ambitious and remarkable film, Sembene is evoking the whole of the African experience.
• Written and Directed by Ousmane Sembène. Photographed by Georges Caristan. Edited by Florence Eymon. Music by Manu Dibango. Production Manager, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra. With Tabara Ndiaye, Moustapha Yade, Mamadou Ndiaye Diagne, Ousmane Camara, Alioune Fall, Pierre Orma, Eloi Coly, Marek Tollik. (1977, 120 mins, 35mm, color, In Wolof with English titles, Print from New Yorker Films)