Movie: Xala

xala dance 1

ThursdayNovember 3rd
City of Asylum @ Alphabet City
8 PM
This event is free but you must RSVP
Guest Discussion Leader:  Dr. Jean-Jacques Sène

Director: Ousmane Sembène
Screenplay Ousmane Sembène
(From his novel of the same name
Running Time: 123 minutes
1975 (DVD 2005)
French and Wolof with English Subtitles


By Samba Gadjigo, Ph.D.
Sembène’s savage and hilarious satire of the modern African bourgeoisie was heavily censored in Senegal. Forsaking the more obvious (and politically acceptable) targets of European exploitation and racism, Sembène here zeroes in on a far touchier subject: the entire black-facing of white colonial policies after independence was granted. The hero of the film is a self-satisfied, westernized Senegalese businessman who is suddenly struck down with the xala, an ancient Senegalese curse rendering him impotent. His vain search for a cure becomes a metaphor for the impossibility of Africans achieving liberation through dependence on western technology and bureaucratic structures.

xala dance 1n

Xala – The Curse (1974) Animal Farm in Africa, as fiftyish fat cat El Hadji Abdoukadr Beye enjoys a flourishing import business, two wives (traditional and Westernized), and a white Mercedes — and now he’s appointed to the Chamber of Commerce. Time to add that third wife; but on the wedding night he fails to rise to the occasion — could he be the victim of a xala? Sembène’s savagely funny satire of the new post-independence ruling class that, despite government censorship, broke Senegalese box office records and hit its targets where they lived.

“Arguably Sembène’s masterpiece, weaves broad social criticism with intricate characterization.” |– Mark Holcomb, Time Out New York
“A scathing satire of post-colonial Senegal’s pompous Francophone elite.” – J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
“A masterpiece considered one of the best films to come out of Africa.” – Time Out New York
“The actors are wonderful, especially the women who play the first two wives —
ladies of magisterial personality, social shrewdness and sexual pride.
The wedding sequence makes the one in The Godfather look like a wedding party at McDonald’s.”
– Newsweek
“A hilarious attack on the self-inflicted shame of Africans trying to be Europeans” – Scott Foundas.