Culture Shock and Indviduality?
by tibez1 on November 19, 2013 - 1:25am
Black Girl Film Review
In Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene, 1996), Sembene presents a young Senegalese woman whose name is Diouana. Similar to any individual who is offered a paying position, Diouana showed excitement due to the fact that she was hired as a governess to a French Family. Unfortunately, what she expected from this family was nonetheless the complete opposite. Being that Diouana came from the country of Senegal in Africa to France, this acted as a major factor in her life. Like a culture shock, trying to adapt to a culture she is far from familiar with. As Diouana is struggling with culture shock and finding a sense of individuality. Many different types of symbols and metaphors arise throughout the film allowing there to be a strong meaning behind the tone of the film and Sembene’s purpose in creating such a film.
The mask and the music were the two strongest symbols throughout the film. The mask involved both the Madame and Diouana. Referring to Madame, the mask symbolized how she was once known as a powerful mistress in Africa but eventually lost the status. For Diouana, the mask symbolized the fact that she was appreciative of the FAMILY HIRING HER FOR THE POSTION of being a nanny but later fooling her into a type of slavery. Along with this appreciativety, mask also represents respect and pay for the labor that is being done in the household for the French family. When the mask is hanging on the wall, it also symbolizes authenticism. So when the mask is removed the meaning diminishes. There would be times in the film where African music would be played, this aspect symbolized her culture and reminded her of home and the family she had back in Africa. Another important symbol in the film was the fact that she constantly wanted to wear her dress and her heels. Typically, Madame would make her remove the dress and where the house maid attire but she would insists on wearing the heels which symbolized her willingness to be elegant and to be seen by the family as high standard.
In the beginning of the film, Diouana freshly arrived to France. Immediately, it was evident she was suffering from some sort of culture shock. For example, Diouana immediately had a set comparison of France with her country back home. Of course this comparison allowed France to be the land of wealth and opportunity for the simple fact that there was assumed to be many promising care giver positions in the area. Sadly, Diouana was deceived and taken advantage of by the family she was with. Instead of being a care giver; nanny, she was treated and portrayed more like a slave in the household. Throughout all the events that Dioouana went through during her time with the family in France, she ultimately decide to take her life. Maybe as a way to show anger to those who tormented Diouana. The amount of stress that was placed upon her later caused unhappiness and in order for her to take control of her emotions, she felt it was necessary to end her life and allow others to see the negativity in which the family was doing.
Sembene does an amazing job with portraying the different elements that were referred to in the beginning of the post, for example, individuality and culture shock. I appreciate how he precisely characterized every character in the film to have their own special role into each symbol present in the film allowing the film to portray to the audience the amount of power the directed wanted to reveal.
Sembene, O. (Director). (1966). La noire de [Motion Picture]. Distributed by
New Yorker Video, France / Senegal