Monday, 19 April 2010


In an unknown sub-Saharan town at an undisclosed period in the past, princess Dior is kidnapped by the ceddo, or ‘outsiders’, in an act of rebellion. The abduction is a protest against the king’s conversion to Islam, which they see as a threat to tradition. Rather than immediate upheaval, the king seeks consultation with the spokesperson for the ceddo, a middle-aged man named Diogomay. Diogomay’s approach to the debate is led heavily by traditional procedure – he begins by placing in the ground the Samp, a ceremonial staff, as a marker of resistance. The ceddo argue that the king is only in his position by dint of the traditional hierarchy. The king counters that times have changed, and promises that life will be lived by Islamic law. The two factions refuse to listen to each other’s pleas, but the suggestion of physical combat seems to resonate with both parties. Disco legend Manu Dibango provides the score.

Director Ousmane Sembène, one of the masters of African cinema, insisted that his film should not be seen as anti-Islamic propaganda, but while it is made clear that the antagonists are under the sway of Islamic law, and Sembène certainly offers sufficient argument against it, the target seems to be religion in general. There are frequent reminders of the most recent conversion to Catholicism, and the locals are clearly not better off for the European influence. In this way, Sembène’s challenging film portrays the ceddo as noble people protecting their pride, regardless of the enemy.

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