In 1952, Ousmane Sembene, a dockworker and fifth-grade dropout from Senegal, began to dream an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. SEMBENE!, a feature-length HD documentary, tells the unbelievable true story of the “father of African cinema,” the self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought, against enormous odds, a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give African stories to Africans. SEMBENE! is told through the experiences of the man who knew him best, colleague and biographer Samba Gadjigo, using rare archival footage and more than 100 hours of exclusive materials. A true-life epic, SEMBENE! follows an ordinary man who transforms himself into a fearless spokesperson for the downtrodden, and a hero to millions. After a startling fall from grace, can Sembene reinvent himself once more?
This work in progress has received two Documentary Fund Awards from the Sundance Institute, a Cinereach grant, a New Mexico New Visions Award, and inclusion in the prestigious Sundance Labs, Tribeca All Access, Toronto Documentary Forum, IDFA Forum and IFP Documentary Spotlight programs. Scheduled completion: Spring 2014.
• Jason Silverman (co-writer, co-director, co-producer) is an award-winning film producer (Olympia, Opening Night film, SXSW; Closing Night film, Slamdance; Sundance Channel; Shameless, Best Film, Great Plains Film Festival)l; a longtime festival director; and a two-time Sundance Documentary Fellow. He has produced large-scale events for the Smithsonian, the Lensic Center for the Arts, the Tribeca Film Festival and the Lannan Foundation. He is currently Cinematheque Director at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, and former Artistic Director of the Taos Talking Picture Festival.
• Samba Gadjigo (co-writer, co-director, co-producer), the director of the documentary Making of Moolaade, is the world’s foremost expert on the life and work of Ousmane Sembene and author of Sembene’s official biography. He was born and raised in Senegal and is professor of African Studies and French at Mt. Holyoke College.
• Debra Anderson (editor) is a filmmaker and activist whose documentaries ignite awareness and inspire dialogue and creative action around environmental justice and human rights, Deb’s feature-length directorial debut Split Estate (2009) broke the story of health impacts from natural gas drilling and “fracking.” The film won the 2010 National Emmy Award for Research. She has edited documentaries for 18 years.