The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 18-24

c5_LaNoireDe_Stills_11_0.tif Black Girl (1966)
Directed by Ousmane Sembène
Sembène’s debut feature may have officially put African cinema on the map, but there’s much more to the film than historical importance. Through its tragic tale of Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop), a Senegalese woman who moves to France to take care of a rich white French couple’s (Anne-Marie Jelinck and Robert Fontaine) children, only to find herself treated as a slave when she gets there, Sembène launches an impassioned attack on the evils of colonialism. While Sembène includes flashbacks of her life back in Dakar to suggest the naïveté that led her to this oppressive existence—a belief in the better life ahead of her in France that makes her visibly giddy, despite her boyfriend’s warnings to the contrary—such ignorance is hardly an excuse for the appalling exploitation she undergoes. Though the husband tries desperately to make amends in the film’s coda, Sembène, through an excoriating final image of a masked boy, refuses to let them, or anyone, off the hook. As a political and humanist statement, Black Girl still packs a flaming wallop, 50 years on. Kenji Fujishima (May 18-24 at BAM in a new digital restoration; showtimes daily)


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