Footage of the uninspiring and stilted dancing displayed by Barack and Michelle instantly reminded me of the late Ousmane Sembene’s superb 1975 film, Xala. El Hadji (pictured below, on the right) is a Senegalese politician, cursed with impotence upon the day of his marriage to his third wife.
Xala is really a satire depicting the failure of new governments in independent Africa. The impotence of El Hadji being the symbol for that failure, and the speed with which many new administrations failed (or were unable) to break away from the influence (and often, control) of the former colonial power. Xala also details beautifully, and hilariously, the greed of the first flush of independent Africa’s politicians. The film begins with the defeat of the French. Within minutes, two French colonial administrators (below), who have just fled the central governing office, are seen returning with brief-cases.
They enter the offices of the new independent adminstration – the new African government feigning some shock – and immediately open the brief-cases, to display wads of cash. The new administration is swiftly smiling and nodding pleased little heads. One of the French men remains behind, and becomes El-Hadji’s right-hand man. In fact, he becomes his advisor, financier and minder.
So when I watched the footage of Barack at his desk for the first time signing executive orders, surrounded as he was by four or five officials (all white), again, I thought of Xala, and wondered what the great Sembene (below) would have been thinking now were he still with us.
I know what I’m thinking. And what I’m hoping. But for now, I’m keeping that to myself. I think BO should be given a chance – to prove us wrong, or prove us right, or prove once again what a masterly film-maker the late Sembene was, making films that were timeless in their interpretations of power, greed and humanity.