Film - Black Girl (1966)
Director: Ousmane Sembene
Genre: Art House and International Drama
Length: 1 hour
Black Girl left a poignant taste in my mouth, although it was filmed in 1966 elements of the film struck a cord within my being as they resonated with me. It was in that moment that I realised the struggle of women of colour still remained the same across the times. Set in Dakar (Senegal, West Africa) and French Riveria , it speaks of the impact of post colonialization and the hunger newly independent countries have to be as successful as their Western counterparts. When we are introduced to Diouanne, she is a beautiful sister who is seeking opportunities to advance her life so she leaves her family’s home daily to look for a job as a maid. On one of these occasions she gets lucky and lands a job as a governess by a French family. During her time working with the family, they travel to French Riveria and that is when life changes for Diouanne.
As she prepares to depart for French Riveria and displays a carefree nature about everything, it represents the joy, excitement and hope many migrants and refugees display at the thought go green pastures. This illusion is shattered as she enters a new environment and immediately we are reminded of racial, cultural and sexual prejudice. Without spoiling the movie, the themes are centered around situating place, migration and identity. Throughout the film there are also undertones of the ignorance towards the mental health of women of colour. All too often the strong black woman narrative results in the dismissal of depression, anxiety and any mental illness when black women display sadness, anger, frustration or any negative emotion that goes against the "strong" or "happy hardworking" stereotype.
At one point the director (Ousmane Sembene) addresses the sexualisation of the black body when one of the characters grabs Diounne's face kisses her and exclaims with excitement that "he has never kissed a black woman before". This is all done without her consent and I am left pondering the treatment of women of colour, viewed as a sexual reference or something to be exoticesed and treated without regard of their input into their sexulisation.
As the film progresses, other themes that are touched on by the director is the irony post colonialism and how it plays when interacting with the notion of what is deemed "African" beauty. Overall I award the film an 8/10 for its simplicity, beauty and depth.