Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sembene, Richler

Watched La Noire de... (trans: Black Girl) by Senegalese author/filmmaker Ousmane Sembene recently. Sembene is considered by many the father of Sub Saharan African film. La Noire de... was the first film by a Sub Saharan director to receive international acclaim, and its actually an adaptation of a Sembene short story. After an already-successful career as a writer, Sembene decided to make films as well as continue to write so he could reach a wider audience. Black Girl's main character, Diouanna, is brought to France by her employers officially as a governess, but quickly realizes she's there effectively as a slave. She's not literally incarcerated, but in a culture where she understands more French than she speaks, doesn't read or write and doesn't know anybody, she is essentially captive to her verbally abusive (wife) and indifferent (husband) employers. A powerful short film, I can only lament that things are still not so different for many West Africans given the "opportunity" of working as domestic "help" in European homes, over forty years later. Or, for that matter, much different than many situations for people from the Caribbean and Central/South America working in North America.

Been enjoying The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler. I didn't read this book as a high school kid in Canada and I'm not quite sure how that happened. Richler's story of post WWII Montreal is a well-written, tragicomic story that reminds me of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Richler is one of Canada's most accomplished and famous authors, and ...Kravitz is probably his best-known book. Just filling in the holes in my Canadian lit. background one classic at a time I guess. Recommended reading for Canadians and the rest of you too!

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