A Senegalese woman is eager to find a better life abroad. She takes a job as a governess for a French family, but finds her duties reduced to those of a maid after the family moves to the south of France. In her new country, she is constantly made aware of her race and mistreated by her employers.
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3,5 Diouana's story is that of many Eastern European women who leave to take care of the old and sick in Western countries, are cooped up in employers' house around the clock, allowed to go out for a few hours on Sunday to attend the mass or the supermarket to buy next week provisions. What does anyone care for their psychical well-being and wear-up? Here's to them. Europe has got its intracontinental blacks aplenty.
BLACK GIRL seems at first like a fairly blunt embodiment of standard discourse around colonial appropriation of bodies and spirits, but does a tremendous about-face and becomes a stirring fable about spiritual resistance and reclamation. The final section of the film - in theory little more than an epilogue - turns the movie away from the standard prosody toward a deeply impactful poetry of overcoming. Sublime.
The film says a lot about race relations in Africa, and especially in France, one of its colonizers. Left with no option but quiet revolutions, the girl passively follows fate, allowing others to dictate over her. The film, only one hour long, is powerful and tries to dissect racist attitudes but falls short on several points.
I'll admit I couldn't entirely get my head around the style but I guess I spent more time trying to figure out who was the bigger asshole -- Diouana for being pissy about her demotion (to a position for which she initially applied) or her asshat employers. Probably both but more so the latter. I liked it even if I still don't recognize the big deal it supposed to be. The short running time didn't hurt either.
In Dakar, a mask is a mask and a woman is a woman. But in France, the mask ceases to be a mask and becomes a wall decoration and Diouanne ceases to be a woman and becomes essentially a slave. It isn't until the beautiful haunting ending when the boy follows Diouanne's old boss like a ghost, that he makes sure the Frenchman never forgets that the mask was always a mask and Diouanne was always a woman.
3.5 stars. Searing Brechtian cinema misrecognised as cinéma vérité. A compassionate and politically serious investigation into the difference between freedom in name and freedom in practice. I realised that I had been mispronouncing Sembène's name to my class - the kind of casual acting out of privilege embodied by the French couple. A film that teaches you to be on your toes against complacency.