African Cinema for Africa
Sembene Across Africa returns for fourth edition, October 19-25, 2020

Ousmane Sembene, the father of African cinema, dedicated 50 years to telling stories to lift up his brothers and sisters. But, for Africans, his films have remained nearly impossible to find. The collaborative program Sembene Across Africa unifies hundreds of organizations, schools, universities and individuals, all with a single goal: to connect Sembene’s timeless, urgent works with Africans.

Sembene Across Africa, an annual program launched in 2017, returns with a week of online and in-person screenings and seminars, produced in conjunction with more than 100 African institutions.

Full details for screenings will be available at The Sembene Project website:

Press inquiries and other questions can be sent to

Sembene was a self-taught filmmaker who became a giant of world culture, and his films and fiction remain among the most inspiring works the continent has seen. The program, October 19-25, includes two of his films and a documentary about him:
• Sembene’s classic tragicomedy MANDABI (1968), which documents the plight of a Senegalese man who tries to cash a money order from a relative in France;

XALA (1975), a biting satire about corruption in the independence era;

• and SEMBENE! (2015), an award-winning documentary celebrating the life of this great man.
Mandabi, Xala and Sembene! will be available to stream for free in Africa from October 19 through October 25.

Sembene Across Africa will also include seminars, broadcast live on YouTube. Seminars include:

• Sembene’s Senegal: Understanding His Home Through His Books and Movies (Wolof), moderated by Boris Boubacar Diop: October 23

Fight the Power: Sembene and Black Power, Then and Now (English), moderator TBD: October 24

Rewriting History: Sembene’s Afrocentric Storytelling (French), moderated by Samba Gadjigo, participants TBD: October 25

This year, due to the global pandemic, the majority of events will be available online, and scholarship funds are available to support those who cannot otherwise afford internet access.

Where safe and legal, institutions and organizations will also produce in-person events, using social distancing protocols as recommended by local authorities.

About Ousmane Sembene
Ousmane Sembene, perhaps Africa’s most influential storyteller, is a truly inspirational figure for our times. Against impossible odds, he spent 50 years creating brilliant, timeless, progress-focused films and novels. Though well known to cinema lovers around the globe, Sembene had been largely forgotten in his native country and throughout Africa at the time of his death in 2007.

The son of a fisherman and a lifelong laborer, Sembene overcame a limited education and learned how to write while in his 30s. In his 40s, he taught himself to make movies. During the last 50 years of his life, Sembene dedicated every moment to galvanizing and inspiring his people, creating visionary, profound and subversive stories. His 1960 novel God’s Bits of Woods remains in the canon of world literature, and his timeless films include Borom Sarret (1963), Black Girl (1966), Mandabi (1968), Emitai (1971), Xala (1975), Ceddo (1976), Camp de Thiaroye (1986), Guelwaar (1992), Faat Kine (2000) and the Cannes-winning Moolaade (2004). Sembene intended for his stories to serve as an “evening school” for African workers and to inspire visions of a just, prosperous and free Africa.

About Sembene Across Africa

Each year, the Sembene Across Africa project—a continent-wide collaboration—shares works by the father of African cinema. Through its first three events, held in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the project reached millions of viewers through in-person screenings, held in 48 of Africa’s 55 nations, through broadcast and through the internet. For many, it was the first chance to experience movies made by Africans, about Africans and for Africans.

Sembene Across Africa provides content as well as marketing and technical support to African organizations, schools and individual producers, free of charge. Sembene Across Africa also provides stipends to support technical needs, food, marketing, honoraria, venue rentals – whatever the individual organizations may need.

The program is presented by Galle Ceddo Projects in partnership with The Sembene Estate, in honor of Thomas Cassirer.


Sembene Across Africa will again be working with dozens of African organizations, with lead support provided by the West African Research Center (Dakar, Senegal), Maisha Film School (Kampala, Uganda), SAMBE (Cameroon) and the Kenyan Scriptwriters Association (Nairobi).

Statistics, 2017-2019 Programs

• 352 in-person events produced, estimated attendance 21,000
• Free streams: more than 2.5 million reached
• 350+ partner organizations engaged
• 44 African nations served with in-person events
• Broadcast: South African Broadcast Channel, Sundance Channel
• Social media imprints: 3,500,000
• Media coverage: 300+ articles
• Estimated media impressions, 9,000,000
• Additional programming: concerts, radio broadcasts, seminars, tours and honoring ceremonies for Sembene, “the father of African cinema.”
• Key funders: Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute, individual donors, Kickstarter


• 2017 overview:
• 2018 article:
• Talks at Google event:
• 2017 photo album:
• 2018 photo album:


“A true African pic, mirroring everyday problems in the witty guise of a folksy tale … it marks points with graceful insights, inventive scenes and technical excellence.” –Variety

After Ibrahima Dieng, an Illiterate, unemployed Senegalese man, suddenly gets a windfall—a money order from his street-sweeper nephew in France for $100—his “friends,” family and debtors swarm, and he finds himself dealing with a Kafkaesque bureaucracy designed to rob him of both money and dignity. The first African film shot in an African language, MANDABI is a winner of numerous international awards.


“Endlessly fascinating … an enormously moving portrait of the profound way that art can transform those who come in contact with it.” –New York Magazine

In 1952, Ousmane Sembene, a Senegalese dockworker and fifth-grade dropout, began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. SEMBENE! tells the unbelievable true story of the self-taught “father of African cinema,” who fought enormous odds to return African stories to Africa. SEMBENE! uses rare archival footage and more than 100 hours of exclusive materials to craft a true-life epic, as an ordinary man transforms himself into a fearless spokesperson for the marginalized.

About XALA

“Cutting, radiant and hilarious … It is part fable and part satire, but it is much more: with the greatest fineness and delicacy, Mr. Sembene has set out a portrait of the complex and conflicting mesh of traditions, aspirations and frustrations of a culture knocked askew by colonialism and distorting itself anew while climbing out.” –New York Times

Shot in 1975, amidst the increasingly audacious corruption of post-independence West Africa, XALA follows a group of Senegalese businessmen who, having seized power from the French, fall into the same greed and self-serving policies that they pledged to eradicate. Among them, El Hadj Abou Kader finds himself dealing with a curse that leaves him temporarily impotent with his new young bride, his third wife. He traces the curse back to a surprising source.