Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) is a stranger in a strange land. In Dakar, she was a nanny--a job she found fulfilling--but is forced to leave when her employers, Madame (Anne-Marie Jelinek) and Monsieur (Robert Fontaine),... more » relocate to Antibes. The Riviera is lovely, but she is demoted to maid and regularly reminded of her exotic origins--treated as an object and exploited for her "Africanness." Proud and impassive, Diouana rarely speaks, but a running monologue reveals her growing disillusionment. "The kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room. That's all I do. That's not what I came to France for!" So Diouana revolts the only way she knows how and stops doing everything for which she was taken from Senegal--cooking, cleaning, etc. Based on his short story, in turn inspired by actual events, Black Girl was the first feature from Ousmane Sembène (Faat Kiné), the premier filmmaker of Sub-Saharan Africa. Though shot in a crude new wave style, the 60-minute film (also released in a 70-minute edition), effectively delineates the life of an unseen individual with no means of solace or escape. Interestingly, all parts were dubbed by other actors, contributing to the sense of alienation--even between Madame and Monsieur, who were also happier in Dakar. Black Girl (La Noire de...) is accompanied by Sembène's 1963 debut, Borom Sarret. The 20-minute short offers an insightful look at a day in the life of a Dakar-based horse-cart driver (Ly Abdoulaye) or borom sarrett (from the French bonhomme charret). --Kathleen C. Fennessy« less
""Black Girl" and "Borom Sarret" depict Senegal after independence. "Black Girl" tells the story of Diuoanne, an African, with dreams of going to France to escape her poor neighborhood in Dakar. When she arrives in France, her dreams of the beautiful city Antibes is a nightmare. Madame is a plantation mistress who treats her like property rather than an adult. She finds fault with everything she does. Diouanne is a prisoner in another country with no chance of exploring the city. Feeling deprived of her self-worth, she takes the mask that she has given to them because it is the only thing that reminds her of her homeland. "Borom Sarret" is a story of a family man who earns a living driving a cart. Life is rough where he lives, but he is proud of who he is and where he comes from. On the other side, the city is filled with buildings and cars on the street. It is more modern than where he is living. However, modernity has its price and he sees it for what it is. Both short films portray the optimism and disappointment post-colonial independence for the African people. Sembene gives a riveting picture of intra- and interracial relations; the economic struggle; and social expectations of Africa and Africans. This is a great movie to watch and discuss with among peers as to how it has changed for the better or for the worse."
Two tragic tales
nadav haber | jerusalem Israel | 04/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The less horrifying among the two films, "Borom sarret", shows one day in a life of a horse cart driver. He gets into trouble for driving into the white neighborhood, cheated by a wealthy black man who abandons him. This is the story of the powerless masses who were the victims of the European colonizers and their black collaborators, after colonization was officially over. "Black Girl" is the tragic story of a pretty Senegalese woman who discovers the reality of racist exploitation in a most vicious manner. Like the "borom Sarret" cart driver, she is completely powerless, but moving to France takes away the little family protection she had in Senegal. In France, she is a "non-person", and this realisation is too much for her. There are millions of "Black Girls", men and women, who were forced to leave Africa and serve as the tree choppers and water bearers of the West. This ongoing crime is largely unnoticed by the affluent society, who only takes notice when "riots erupt" in the poor slums. Sembene's movies should be given as much exposure as possible, in the hope of waking people up to this modern day slavery."
Unforgettable Images in La Noire de...
khense | los angeles, CA | 08/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this film 40 years ago.It still burns in my mind.Diouana, a nice girl from a poor country,wants a better life,which she believes will be"En France." She has only the vaguest idea what's in store for her & does not understand the value of what she leaves behind-including her boyfriend-a nice guy.En France, Diouana's employers mean well, however they eventually have to face that Diouana has given up but cannot go home. Images of a clean bathtub after a suicide, the boyfriend's photo in a suitcase, the child & the mask - will never go away."
Great Movies - Two of them
Patrick Jackson | St Paul, MN | 10/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Black Girl is as the previous reviewer described it. Barom Sarret is a different movie from a year before. It is shorter than La Noire De.... It is cruder, but more succinct, and, I believe, superior to Black Girl. Both movies are excellent, and worthy of purchase, that they appear together on one disc is particularly generous."
millhaven | United States | 01/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had a lot of trouble with this one. I spent most of the movie wanting to scream at the main characters to communicate with each other. I guess the point is that they simply weren't in a position where they could do that.
The end also seemed way too extreme in the context of the rest of the movie. I get that Diouana was depressed, but I was expecting her to walk out with the cash and the mask and go live her own life, difficult as that would have been. She was so determined and resourceful when looking for a job, and confident enough to ignore her boyfriend's disapproval and head off to France practically alone. The bathtub scene came out of nowhere.
Perhaps we were meant to sympathize with Diouana over the others, but I found myself feeling sorry for both women. And the kids. And the husband (though less so), since he was just a man of the times and so obviously clueless about what was happening to his family.
The wife clearly felt terribly trapped. Here she was in France, supposedly on vacation, and yet if not for Diouana, she would have been the servant. Spending the entire time bringing coffee to her husband whenever he plonked himself down at the table with the paper, doing endless household chores, looking after the kids. She could be kind to her staff in Senegal because her position was secure, but in France, it was either her or Diouana. She was flawed and ignoble and sometimes cruel, but she was understandable.
The husband. Well. Completely clueless.
And Diouana? Why didn't she talk! If she'd just once said what she was thinking, things might have turned out differently. The couple weren't so awful that they couldn't have understood at least a little of how she felt.
Perhaps the ending was necessary. I heard about this movie because it's apparently quite famous. Would it have been as famous without the shocking ending? But I still don't think it did Diouana justice.
The only way I can make sense of it is to see Diouana's time in France as many years artificially compressed down into a few weeks. If I think of it that way, I guess I admire the movie a lot more. The couple weren't monsters, they were just trapped, ordinary people, but their treatment of Diouana as a non-person was quite unbearable. Living with that for long enough really can drive a person mad.
I'm not sure everyone realizes how much impact this kind of treatment has, year after year. Especially when it's subtle, hard to pin down, and easy to justify. If that's what the director was going for, then he has my respect, even if he didn't quite hit the mark with this movie.