[Marxism] Fwd: Sembène and the Spirit of Rebellion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 30 07:00:54 MDT 2015

I became a socialist in the 1960s largely on the belief that capitalism 
held back civilization by preventing a large majority of the world’s 
population from reaching its maximum potential. If the children of Asia, 
Africa and Latin America could enjoy the same benefits of those in rich 
countries, especially a top-notch education and the leisure time to 
develop innate talents, that could enhance the possibility of a great 
artist like Picasso or the scientist who could find a cure for cancer 
emerging out of formerly neglected regions.

Saul Bellow once asked tauntingly “who was the Zulu Tolstoy” in an 
obvious dismissal of African potential. Considering the career of 
filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, who is the subject of the great documentary 
“Sembène” that opens on November 6th at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New 
York, you would conclude that the potential is enormous, held back only 
by what Andre Gunder Frank once called the development of underdevelopment.

Although I have been following Sembène’s film career for decades, 
“Sembène” offered new insights into what a genius he was. Born in 1923, 
his father a fisherman, Sembène fell in love with movies at an early age 
after seeing scenes of Jesse Owens’ track victories in Leni 
Riefenstahl’s pro-Nazi Olympics documentary. “For the first time,” he 
told the LA Times in 1995, “a black honored us by beating whites. . . . 
It became the film for the young people of my generation.” We can be 
sure that this was not Riefenstahl’s intention.


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