Abstract

Abstract:

On June 22, 1958, Gomis Diouana, a young Senegalese woman who followed her colonial employers to France to work in their household, committed suicide. If it were not for Ousmane Sembene, her tragedy would have sunk into obscurity, its only public record being a short article in the faits-divers section of Nice-Matin two days later. But encountering this woman's tragic fate inspired Sembene to write a short story that he then adapted to the screen, La noire de…. In this 1966 film, the young Senegalese protagonist's tragedy unfolds through a series of close-up shots showing Diouana's emotional states. Frequently, the camera closes in on Diouana's face while her eyes look away. Contrasting these close-ups with those of other characters who look intently at the camera and with the post-Holocaust look-to-camera shot, I argue that a new form of cinematic testimony emerges in response to the suffering of colonialism, namely a screening of the unwitnessed. Informed by Michael Rothberg's notion of multidirectionality, my investigation of the cinematic and historical context of the film places the trauma of colonialism present in La noire de… in dialogue with the contemporaneously circulating memories of the Holocaust and their influence on cinema and society. Beyond exposing the severity and continuity of colonial suffering, the juxtaposition of these close-up shots points to a contributing cause: the absence of any public willing to receive the testimony of colonial injustice.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1836
Print ISSN
0098-9355
Pages
pp. 327-347
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-22
Open Access
No
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