A documentary film

“Whether it’s DeMille, Hitchcock, the Senegalese filmmaker Sembene … we’re all walking in their footsteps, all of us…”

–Martin Scorsese, the 2010 Golden Globes


When Ousmane Sembéne first picked up a movie camera in the early 1960s, no African had ever made a movie in Africa before. Africa's film-going diet consisted entirely of American and European movies. By the time of his death in 2007, this sixth-grade dropout, against incredible odds, had turned African cinema into its own distinctive storytelling form, inspiring a generation of artists. Sembene, perhaps Africa’s most important cultural figure of the past 50 years, also proved himself one of history’s greatest revolutionary artists.

Using a weave of handcrafted collage animation, new and archival footage and clips from Sembene’s films, SEMBENE! takes the form of a tale being told by a wise elder, following as Sembene transforms himself from young dockworker into novelist, filmmaker and cultural icon, one who dedicated his life to telling stories that promote social justice and build a stronger Africa.

As it explores Sembene’s life and work, SEMBENE! also reveals the mechanics of the modern, corporate- and government-controlled media, and presents Africa as few of us have seen it before.






A freedom fighter who used stories as weapons: meet Ousmane Sembene, the father of African cinema.