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Xala – 1975 Sembene
- This is Ousmane Sembene’s (from Senegal- he’s sort of the father of African cinema) fourth feature. The title translates to mean “impotence” and stars Thierno Leve as the corrupt businessman El Hadji Aboucader Beye. He and the other members of the chamber of commerce have taken over from their white oppressors (“our independence is complete”) but they are nearly as crooked and one of the white stooges sort of hangs around the new President all the time perhaps serving as some sort of puppet master.
- Starts with a voice-over that trails off… Semebene also turns on the water for an inner-monologue out of convenience at the 68-min mark in another formal miscue before turning the water off again quickly.
- There is a very nice frame at the 7-minute mark with the dishonest businessmen (they replace El Hadji Aboucader Beye with a pickpocket at one point) all with briefcases full up money, lined up in a row. The next sequences focuses on their luxury vehicles all lined up in a row as well.
- The tone is different- but with the sort of nameless, corrupt evil power brokers and the emphasis on ceremony here- it does read a little like Pasolini’s Salo (also 1975) though the closest relative is, no doubt, Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (I think this film would make both Bunuel and Pasolini proud).
- This is a satire with social, political, and racial layers- a fable, moral tale.
- El Hadji Aboucader Beye has essentially bought a third (and much younger) wife and well—if you translate the title- he struggles to perform. Much of the film is about him trying to cure that problem.
- Dialogue like “I never go to Spain anymore, there are negros there” and “you act like Europeans” and there is a white couple on the cake at the wedding. Evian, the water, is almost like a villain in the film.
- Ends again in ritual and ceremony again as the crowd (those in the lower economic class within the film) mockingly crown El Hadji Aboucader Beye, strip him, and spit on him (ending in a freeze on him)
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1975