a documentary film

SEMBENE! goes to Cannes

SEMBENE!, has been selected for the official program of the 2015 Festival de Cannes, the world’s most prestigious film festival. The film follows the extraordinary life of Ousmane Sembene, a Senegalese dockworker who taught himself how to make movies, gave birth to the African cinema, and became an iconic figure in the global Black Power movement. Gadjigo, a close friend and essential collaborator of Sembene’s, tells the story in first person, using rare archival materials, excerpts from Sembene’s films and never-before-seen footage. 

SEMBENE! will screen in the Cannes Classics section, which celebrates cinema history. Also screening is Ousmane Sembene’s 1966 film LA NOIRE DE …, which was restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project in conjunction with the documentary. LA NOIRE DE …, the first sub-Saharan African feature film, was described by Jonathan Rosenbaum as “a masterpiece … There are few endings in all of cinema as powerful and rich as this: brimming with tragic wisdom and latent meaning, with finality and promise, with humor and pain.” The restoration was performed by the Cineteca Bologna, one of the world's leading restoration facilities, by a team of 35 archivists, who worked with the film's original elements. Cineteca Bologna has also restored films by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Cannes Classics also will include a tribute to Costa-Gavras and a program celebrating Orson Welles this year. SEMBENE is one of just 11 documentaries being screened at the Festival de Cannes; one of only three African feature films playing at the festival; and one of only three Sundance films selected. Writer-director-producers Jason Silverman and Samba Gadjigo will attend the festival, along with editor Ricardo Acosta, co-producer Mark Steele and animator James Dunlap.


Hello Sembene! family,

This update is overdue, and our apologies!  It has been a whirlwind the past few months. Our film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival was a great success, with sold-out shows and wonderful coverage, including a listing on Vulture as one of the fest's best films, a wonderful feature on the film, a very sweet review and an article about an amazing student screening in the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Directors Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman with producer Bill Conway - Sundance Film Festival 2015.

 We've had interest from distributors and broadcasters, as well as from festivals around the world. And we'll have more news soon! We promise …

Samba before the screening in Salt Lake City

Samba before the screening in Salt Lake City

 We thank you for your support. The SEMBENE! family has been a source of inspiration and strength for us, and we can't wait to show you the film!


All best wishes,


Jason and Samba

SEMBENE! Still needs your help!

As we move into the final day of our Kickstarter Campaign, we want to express how grateful we are to everyone who has been able to contribute monetarily, as well as to the people who are simply sincere fans, supporting us through their excitement and desire to see this film.

Jason, Samba, Fatoumatah Coulibaly (the star of Sembene's most famous movie, Moolaade) and Makhette Diallo, a long-time Sembene collaborator, in Soudiane, Senegal. We just took Sembene's films into a remote area to show them in villages to people who had never seen a film before. Now we want to take the story of Sembéne everywhere!

Jason, Samba, Fatoumatah Coulibaly (the star of Sembene's most famous movie, Moolaade) and Makhette Diallo, a long-time Sembene collaborator, in Soudiane, Senegal. We just took Sembene's films into a remote area to show them in villages to people who had never seen a film before. Now we want to take the story of Sembéne everywhere!

We have been making this film at our kitchen tables for these many years--working on a volunteer basis, at times putting our personal lives on hold, investing our personal savings--and each moment cherishing what it is we believe to be true: Sembéne’s stories need to be heard. Sembéne’s story needs to be told.

So in these final days we ask you to help us make our STRETCH goal. This above-and-beyond goal of $35,000 will allow us to do some things we might not be able to otherwise. For example, it will allow us to polish this brilliant diamond a little more--spending a bit extra on the sound mix, the animation, etc.--and to hire the best publicist for the film at Sundance, giving us a better shot at spreading Sembéne's genius far and wide.  

Launch SEMBENE! at Sundance. Less than 48 hours left!

SEMBENE! fans are the very best! We reached our initial goal over the weekend, but if Sembene the man taught us anything, it’s to keep reaching higher... Every additional dollar we raise increases our ability to show the film at Sundance and beyond. As the campaign winds down (today and tomorrow), please share this message far and wide; the more the merrier as we begin SEMBENE!’s journey into the world. A million thanks!

Help us reach a $5,000 match!

It has been seven years since Jason and I decided to make this film, and we have just six weeks until our premiere ... and only five days left to reach our Kickstarter goal. Let's get our film to Sundance! 

We've received incredible support, with more than 200 of you pledging already, plus spotlights and coverage from IndieWire, Kickstarter and the Salt Lake Tribune. And there's more good news: a donor has just pledged to match every dollar pledged between now and midnight Friday, up to $5000. 

Your pledge now counts as double! If you have been thinking about pledging, but haven't gotten around to it, or if you know a friend who might pledge, please consider helping this essential film reach its audience. 

Take a look at the video that Jay Z's Life + Time, Video Magazine did on Ousmane Sembene in 2011.

Kickstarter - PROJECT OF THE DAY - Take the journey with us!

What a week! We announced our Sundance premiere, and we've crossed the $10,000 mark in our Kickstarter campaign, with over 150 backers! We've delivered the film to our post-production house for the finishing work, and our master materials are nearly all in. Our composing team is hard at work, and the excitement is building.

Sembene on the set of XALA

If we could figure out a way to make these days 26 hours long, we'd be working two more hours! 

Your support has been inspiring to us. After these many years, we are about to share Sembene's inspiring story with the world. The Sundance premiere ensures a fantastic platform, and we are confident the world will embrace the film. 

But we still have lots of work and we need your help! Please share our message with your friends -- post to Facebook, Twitter, or your social network of choice, and send out emails. Your enthusiasm is the engine of our campaign. We've known since we  embarked upon this process that it would take a village to raise a film like SEMBENE! -- an independent film about a largely forgotten African hero -- and that vision, of a communally supported project, is now coming true.


With our Deep Gratitude,

Samba and Jason

SEMBENE! Selected for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious film festivals. More than 12,000 films submitted, with fewer than 2 percent selected. That's why we are so happy to share our big news: SEMBENE! will be premiering at this year's Sundance Film Festival, which takes place January 22 through February 1. 


SEMBENE! is one of 16 films selected for the International Documentary Competition. 

This news makes your support all the more important. If we reach our Kickstarter goal, we'll be that much closer to bringing SEMBENE! to the wide audience we believe it deserves. 

Please consider joining our team today!