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'This is Not a Pipe'?: Reflexivity, fictionality and dialogism in Sembène's films

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The work of Senegalese film-maker Ousmane Sembène is often analysed in terms of its highly ideological and social realist mode. This paper questions the relevance of a one-way ‘film as message’ model by demonstrating how Sembène’s films thematize the limits of meaning. His work systematically emphasizes the dialogical construction of meaning, whether of important symbols like the mask in La Noire de .../Black Girl, or of the films themselves as objects circulating in society. Self-reflexive strategies like posters and cameos by Sembène call the viewer’s attention to the constructedness of the ideological message and the arbitrariness of the film as sign. Sembène’s films are still a call to action, but they are also a call to thought about the factitiousness of narrative, and to dialogue about the work of interpretation.
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Keywords: Third Cinema; cameos; didactic; engagé; ideology; realism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: George Mason University

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
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