mbissine therese diop

Who? Diouana portrayed by Mbissine Therese Diop. Featured in Black Girl (La Noire De)

Why? Diouana leaves her family and her boyfriend in Senegal when she moves to France to work as a nanny for a wealthy family. She dreams of starting a better life, but the reality is very different as the family treat her no better than a slave. Diouana is the anchor of the story, with many of the scenes featuring only her. She leaves Senegal in the hopes of making a better life for herself, but when her employers begin to mistreat her, she doesn’t bow to pressure. She doesn’t succumb to the image of a “servant” that her employees try to force her in to. She knows that her background does not make her worthless, and so she holds her head up high and frequently defies the harsh treatment she receives. Diop portrays Diouana as poised and proud, but with a beautiful subtlety. In a post colonial world, she represents those who are proud of an identity people once held against them. She knows that the French family see her as an object, but she would rather have her integrity than a little bit of money. No matter what, she maintains her strength and her confidence, providing an emotional centre for the film. 

Famous Words: “Never will I be a slave. I did not come here for the apron or the money. Never will she see me again. Never will she scold me again. Never again.”

anonymous asked:

can you recommend any pre-1970s movies featuring WOC? I dont mind subtitles either if they're foreign. I love vintage movies and fashion but I hate that so many movies are racist and that I can never see people who look like me:( One of my only icons is Tura Satana who is GOD to me

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill (1965) stars Tura Satana- I’m sure u know lol
Black Girl (1966) stars Mbissine Therese Diop *French film*
Carmen Jones (1954) stars Dorothy Dandridge
Flower Drum Song (1961) stars Nancy Kwan
Black Orpheus (1959) stars Marpessa Dawn *Brazilian film*
Rashomon (1950) stars Machiko Kyo *Japanese film*
Siren of Atlantis (1949) stars Maria Montez
Dona Barbara (1943) stars Maria Felix *Mexican film*
Shanghai Express (1932) stars Anna May Wong

if anybody wants to help out anon, just leave a reply with some suggestions :)

Black Girl (1966, Senegal)

Film history neophytes are not surprised to know North America, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia have been making films since the silent era. What might surprise them, though, is the fact that the cinema of sub-Saharan Africa is as young as it is and it contains a definitive date of origin: 1966. Ousmane Sembène's Black Girl - according to numerous sources - marks the first time a black director helmed a feature-length film originating from sub-Saharan Africa (Sembène previously made a 20-minute short in 1963 entitled Borom Sarret). In an era of decolonization followed by neocolonialist sentiments from former European colonial powers, Black Girl (also known in its original French title of La Noire de… meaning “The black girl of…”) sends a forceful statement of artistry that - when seen - spread dreams of filmmaking to places where such dreams could never have been a reality.

Diouanna (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) hails from an impoverished family living in the outskirts of metropolitan Dakar. With a small stroke of fortune, she is given a job by a middle-class French couple (Anne-Marie Jelinek and Robert Fontaine) to be a nanny to their three young children. She doesn’t mind the job at first as the family’s estate is enormous and the children are not terribly bothersome. The couple promises to bring Diouanna to France to continue her job as well, separating Diouanna from her family and boyfriend (Momar Nar Sene). She believes she will continue her job as a nanny but those hopes are dashed quickly. Their apartment is smaller, prison-like, and the children are not present until near the end of the film. Instead, she washes dishes, cooks, cleans, and receives verbal abuse from the wife. There are no interesting people to meet as Diouanna is told to sit and eat in the kitchen instead and she is never taken anywhere. Diouanna quietly rebels as she eventually refuses to take any orders (the couple reasons - to paraphrase - that black people are lazy and that the French weather must be making her even lazier) but the French couple do nothing to make her feel more at home or ask why she is feeling the way she is.

Many early African films are challenging watches as they deal with racial and socioeconomic ideas raised in the wake of political independence from former imperial powers. Black Girl sets the tone in the French couple’s unrelenting subordination of Diouanna. Just listen to how they speak to Diouanna. When they arrive in France, all they do is to order her around (clean this, do the dishes, make us coffee, make us that exotic African cuisine, etc.). Never in these exchanges do they ask Diouanna about her feelings, whether she is comfortable in the situation she is in, her family and the past, or any other humanizing topics. They treat her as an automaton and very much as something lower than a human being. A moment where the couple has invited some friends for lunch sees a guest ask to kiss Diouanna, stating that he has never kissed a black woman before. It’s a horrible, dehumanizing moment as if Diouanna was just a thing on a checklist (as we can’t rule out the possibility for sexual violence, imagine if the guest had more malevolent intentions). The film, which is partly narrated through Diouanna as indignity is followed by another indignity, is extremely direct in presenting her feelings over the ungratefulness, inconsiderateness, and racist treatment levied towards her (if anything, the film overuses the narration). As the wife continues to spew orders and abuse, Diouanna queries to herself: “Why am I here? I will not be her slave anymore”. For all accounts and purposes, this is slavery as her movement and actions are unwillingly restrained among other factors. But how do you protest and how do you resist when faced with the possibility of further abuse (and perhaps even physical abuse)? The resolution of Diouanna’s dilemma is an act of existentialist last resort and - unnervingly - is a strangely subdued moment.

One scene where the French couple receives a latter from Diouanna’s mother asking why Diouanna hasn’t sent money back to Dakar carries an unbearable amount of pathos. Diouanna, who is illiterate, refuses to respond as she cannot trust the husband - who offers to write the response - to write down what she truly thinks of her (to put it quite bluntly) employer-masters. The terrible irony of it all is that the viewer is engaging this situation through a medium that doesn’t require literacy, only human understanding and racial consciousness. Very little of Diouanna’s life before her employment is revealed; there are flashbacks but little explanation is given. Does it matter, though, when she must suffer so much at the hands of this white French couple? Though Sembène doesn’t characterize Diouanna as much as one might expect, I think the choice not to explore her background as deeply as another filmmaker is an interesting, potent choice and is as narratively valid as a deeper characterization. Too much characterization and one individualizes events in the film, potentially destroying a scope of relatability. Diouanna is not put on a pedestal of moral superiority nor does she become an easily exploitative icon of human suffering. The decision not to fully enrich Diouanna with intricate motivations and a rich background universalizes her suffering, her innermost anger, and her inability to confront her oppressors. Sembène does this masterfully and Diop - who never acted in another film before or after Black Girl - does an excellent job.

I can imagine that for many who have not seen films from nations once colonized by imperial powers Black Girl could be an exceptionally difficult watch (though I don’t profess to be an expert here, try pre-1990s African cinema and South Asian cinema before 1980). Black Girl is an example of the existentialist anguish and psychology of neocolonialist ideas imposed upon a formerly oppressed people by their previous oppressors. The best parallels I can recall are the works of Afro-French writer Frantz Fanon who wrote in Black Skin, White Masks that black men and women living in Europe find themselves subjugated to become, “an object among other objects,” and are seen as, “an image in the third person”. It is an objectifying, alienating mindset that certainly plays a part throughout the entire film. Black Girl represents Fanon’s theories of racially-explained alienation and dramatizes them. This idea and many other ideas stemming from racial consciousness are almost always present in sub-Saharan African films. The more you see of these films, the closer you begin to understand this paradigm. But unless you live in or are connected to this region somehow, full understanding of this paradigm is impossible. This is an important film - aesthetically and historically - in the history of cinema despite the fact few know of its existence.

Film is the youngest of the major art forms - that includes painting, sculpture, music, dance, theater, and others (film is the most assimilationist of all these) - and because of its youth it presented itself internationally faster than any of these art forms. Black Girl ushered in one of the final steps to truly globalizing film and - considering the imaginative, beautiful works that have emerged from the region since - so many sub-Saharan filmmakers are forever in Sembène’s debt. The story of sub-Saharan African cinema has only appeared in the second half of the extremely short history of film (which spans about 120 years or so, depending on who you ask). But the medium is all the more valuable for Sembène and his revolution which, in earnest, begins with Black Girl

My rating: 9.5/10

^ Based on my personal imdb rating. Half-points are always rounded down.