Pfaff, Francoise. Cinema of Ousmane Sembene, a pioneer of African film. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.
In chapter 2 of Cinema of Ousmane Sembène, Pfaff decribes Ousmane Sembène’s exquisite skill as a storyteller, calling him the modern equivalent of the traditional African griot. A griot is an individual that specializes in storytelling, legends and family histories. Sembène certainly fits the bill, but what makes him even more authentic as the first African international herald was the fact that he was self-educated, opinionated and critical of post-colonial rule in Africa. The author elaborates upon the popularity and effectiveness of griot storytelling in African heritage, and how this heritage gave Sembène’s films such a distinct style when compared to Western films. Griot-style stories were often allegorical in nature, and we see the same style in most of Sembène’s films. Pfaff uses Xala, for instance, to show how individual character psychology is not as important as character stereotype – each character representing a distinct worldview.
I think the relation between this chapter and Xala is rather obvious. Sembène uses Xala, to tell the story of post-colonial Africa. The film has elements of allegory, and certainly has a strong political and cultural agenda, as would be expected coming from a griot. The film was recorded in French so that Sembène could tell the story to an international audience, in hopes of spurring outside political pressure and accountability for African governments.