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Ceddo

Recently Restored
Directed by Ousmane Sembène.
With Tabata Ndiaye, Alioune Fall, Moustapha Yade.
Senegal/France, 1977, DCP, color, 117 min.
Wolof, Arabic, English and Dyula with English subtitles.
DCP source: Janus Films

In order to finance Ceddo, his most ambitious film in scale and most incendiary in subject matter, Sembène mortgaged his home and borrowed money from friends and family. A recent convert to Islam, the feeble king Demba War Thioub (Makhourédia Guèye) has accepted into his inner circle a power-hungry imam (Gouré). Refusing to convert to Islam, the Ceddo—a group of outsiders distinguished by their animist beliefs—kidnap the king’s daughter, the princess Dior Yacine (Tabata Ndiaye). The ensuing religious war between the imam and the Ceddo is intensified by the people’s economic dependence on slavery and the simultaneous encroachment of Catholicism. The inner workings of these intersecting threats are laid bare in masterfully staged public assemblies, complete with exquisite costumes and halting monologues, and a shocking day-for-night sequence of violence. In interviews, Sembène refused to specify the century or country in which the film takes place and instead challenged viewers to see the similarities between the precolonial past and the neocolonial present. The negative critical reception of Ceddo—which was officially banned in Senegal for a petty objection to the title’s spelling—brought Sembène’s career to a twelve-year halt, after which he fearlessly returned with Camp de Thiaroye in 1988.

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