Friday, January 17, 2020
Written and directed by Ousmane Sembene, Ceddo (The Outsiders) is the story of a group of commoners who kidnap a king’s princess following his decision to side with Muslims and have his people convert to Islam against their will. The film is a study of forced conversion and a group of people who are willing to defy the authority in the hopes to preserve their own traditions. Starring Tabata Ndiaye and Moustapha Yade. Ceddo is a riveting and evocative film from Ousmane Sembene.
The film revolves a conflict involving commoners who worship idols and carry on traditions that has happened for thousands of years while allowing a Christian pastor live nearby as they are dealing with a king’s new decision to convert his people into Islam. The result becomes troubling when a young man kidnaps the princess and holds her hostage escalating things further when attempts to rescue the princess falter as old tribe leaders ponder what to do while becoming angrier towards the imam (Omar Gueye) whose influence on the king has become troubling. Ousmane Sembene’s screenplay opens with a young kidnapper (Ismalia Diagne) and his aide taking Princess Dior (Tabata Ndiaye) as they hold her hostage while he scouts around for anyone to rescue her as he would kill those who attempt to with his bow and arrow. The script also play into what some will do to gain leverage as some trade people for weapons with others using bargaining and manipulation as some choose to go into exile with others either joining along or fight.
Sembene’s direction is full of dazzling imagery in terms of the simplicity he creates as well as the setting as it is set in a desert-like village with one scene set in a park during a funeral procession for the Christian pastor. While there are some wide shots to establish certain locations including this area where Princess Dior is living in a tent of sorts with her kidnapper nearby hiding. Sembene’s usage of medium shots and close-ups play more into the interaction and meeting between characters as it also play into this growing tension and civil unrest that is looming between the commoners and the Muslims. Even in the scenes that play into this imagery of idols that these commoners worship and the first meeting with the king (Matoura Dia), Prince Biram (Mamadou Dioume), the prince’s cousin, a warrior in Saxewar (Nar Modou), and a mediator in Madir Fatim Fall (Moustapha Yade) try to discuss what to do with the princess with the imam stirring the pot. Sembene showcases this massive meeting as it is the crux of an implosion that is coming with the king not really doing anything at all as it is clear he’s become a puppet for the imam.
Sembene also play into this air of frustration among the commoners and their leaders as one of them in Diogomay (Ousmane Camara) makes his own decision knowing what is to come as he doesn’t want part of it. Even as there’s people within the king’s council become frustrated as well as realize that things have become troubled since the imam’s arrival as he continues to spout his own ideas and manipulate those into his ways. The third act has Sembene not only play into the chaos that is happening but also the princess coming to terms with what is happening as the film’s ending is about what she would see to her people as they’re forced to take on new identities, new names, and a new way of life that is so foreign to them. Overall, Sembene crafts a compelling yet eerie film about a conflict between commoners and its king over the latter’s decision to have his people to convert to Islam against their will.
Cinematographer Georges Cristian does brilliant work for its colorful cinematography with the usage of low-key blue filters for one major sequence at night along with the vibrancy of colors in the daytime including the clothes that the people wear in the film. Editor Florence Eymon does excellent work with the editing as it largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the action and a few of the film’s surreal moments. The film’s music by Manu Dibango is incredible for its mixture of percussive-based music with marimbas and other percussions to play into the dramatic tension as well as bits of jazz and funk that are mixed in with some of the soundtrack music also featuring Christian and gospel hymns.
The film’s wonderful cast feature a cameo appearance from writer/director Ousmane Sembene as a commoner who has his name changed along with small roles from Ousmane Camara as the tribe leader Diogomay who makes his own decision about the king’s new demands, Nar Modou as a renowned warrior in Saxemar, Mamadou Dioume as Prince Biram, and Matoura Dia as the king who rarely says anything as it is suggested that he’s become a puppet for the imam. Moustapha Yade is fantastic as Madir Fatim Fall as a mediator between the commoners and the king as he becomes frustrated with the situation as his search for a solution becomes impossible.
Omar Gueye is excellent as the imam Jaraaf as this Islamic leader who is trying to instill his ideals and beliefs into people thinking it would be good for them yet has a motive for what he’s trying to do. Ismalia Diagne is superb as the kidnapper who takes the princess as he is trying to keep her at bay yet is also concerned for her as the rescue attempts intensify following some major news in the third act. Finally, there’s Tabata Ndiaye in an amazing performance as Princess Dior Yacine as a royal figure who becomes a pawn in this conflict as she eventually grows fond of her captor while becoming aware of what is happening questioning her father’s actions as well as the power of the imam.
Ceddo is a phenomenal film from Ousmane Sembene. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, themes of forced religious conversion against old traditions, and an incredible score by Manu Dibango. It’s a film that explores a king’s decision to change the ways of his people in an act of venturing into a world that his people are either reluctant to join or refuse to be a part of. In the end, Ceddo is a sensational film from Ousmane Sembene.
Ousmane Sembene Films: Black Girl - (Mandabi) – Emitai - (Xala) – (Camp de Thiaroye) – (Guelwaar) – (Faat Kine) – (Moolade)
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