Cleveland International Film Festival } April 7 – April 18, 2021 } Playhouse Square



Year: 1974
Country: Senegal
Run Time: 123 minutes


Sembene is Africa's only filmmaker of international repute. Like the flourishing Indian film industry, African movies are intended almost exclusively for home audiences. Born in the former French colony of Senegal, Sembene eventually worked his way to France where he found work as a docker. In the late 1950s, he published his first novel, "Le Docker Noir," which deals with the life of African working-class emigres in France. After writing several more novels, he turned to filmmaking in 1960. His most famous movies are "Black Girl" (1966) and "Mandabi" (1968). His latest film XALA (which roughly translates into "the curse of impotence") was banned in his native Senegal because of its uncompromising expose of the corrupt black bourgeoisie, who have embraced all the venality of their white colonial predecessors. The protagonist is a middle-aged businessman, a pillar of the Dakar Chamber of Commerce, an "importer" who likes flaunting his white Mercedes, which was obviously purchased with bribe money. In keeping with his affluent lifestyle, he decides to take on a third wife, but on their disastrous wedding night, he's unable to consummate their union. In desperation, he tries various tribal remedies, but to little effect. Eventually he becomes so demoralized with his diminished virility that his financial mini-empire begins to crumble. The motif of impotence is obviously meant to symbolize the impotence of Senegal's grasping ruling class. Sembene's political and social satire is often hilarious. At the lavish wedding reception, for example, several hyper-Europeanized Beautiful People wonder what the English translation for "le weekend" is. Similarly, they lament that the influx of black tourists to Spain has totally ruined that country as a civilized vacation resort. Funny as XALA is, the movie is also a courageous indictment of the widespread corruption and ineptitude of Africa's political and economic leadership.

Ousmane Sembene

Paulin S. Vieyra

Georges Caristan

Florence Eymon

Principal Cast
Thierno Leye, Seune Samb, Younouss Seye, Myriam Niang, Douta Seck, Fatim Diagne, Dieynaba Niang, Moustapha Toure, Iliamane Sagna, Makhouredia Gueye, Abdoulaye Seck, Doudou Gueye, Farba Sarr, Mamadou Sarr, Papa Demba Diallo

Questions? >


Check out our FAQs for answers to common questions about entering the film festival.

Donate >


Your donation helps fulfill our mission to promote artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition.

Sign up for our email newsletter

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • instagram
  • youtube
  • flickr
  • alexa
  • foursquare



We promise you, it will make a difference!

Give Today