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Ousmane Sembene and Thierno Faty Sow's 'Camp de Thiaroye' screened at the Cannes Film Festival

On Sunday 19th May, Camp de Thiaroye, a film written and directed by the father of African Cinema Ousmane Sembene in collaboration with Thierno Faty Sow was screened at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival in France. The film was featured in the Cannes Classics, a category for restored prints of cinematic masterpieces, as a way of preserving and celebrating film heritage.

1988 released Camp de Thiaroye is based on the 1944 mutiny and massacre of Tirailleurs Sénégalais (a colonial infantry in the French army with troops recruited from Senegal) by French forces. Tirailleurs return from fighting in France and are temporarily kept in an encampment. After complaining about poor quality of food and treatment at the camp to no avail, and eventually finding out that they would receive a lesser pay than their French counterparts for their services, they carry out a mutiny. The mutiny ends when it seems like an agreement to compensate them fairly has been reached, but instead the French use that as a decoy to open fire on the troops.

Faty Sow and Sembene, who was a tirailleur himself use historical accounts as well as personal experience to craft this story of injustice. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 45th Venice Film Festival, but was banned in France for about a decade and censored in Senegal. Many agree that this ban was further indictment of the French colonial system that Sembene has often criticised in his work.

Camp de Thiaroye has since been screened in many countries, including Senegal. You can watch it here at the Black Film Archive.


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