African troops were essential to Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces, which helped to liberate France after its surrender to Hitler. But upon victory, de Gaulle wanted to see only white faces marching toward the Arc de Triomphe—African soldiers were rapidly demobilized, and some were detained in a concentration camp–like facility at Thiaroye. Sembene is mordantly witty about postwar racial identities: American soldiers are welcomed at a whites-only brothel; and an African-American sergeant from Detroit needs a black Frenchman to explain Langston Hughes and Charlie Parker. With cooperation from Tunisia and Algeria, the entire film was completed on the African continent. 1987, 35mm, in French and Wolof with English subtitles, 157 minutes.
Post-screening discussion led by Joëlle Vitiello, professor of French and Francophone Studies, Macalester College.