Blu-Ray Review: Black Girl


While you might think that domestic servitude is a thing of the past, it’s alive and kicking in many parts of the world. While it’s rife in regions such as the Indian Subcontinent, Middle-East, South-East Asia and many parts of Africa, that doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t still happen in Europe. While the colonial powers might have ceded control of their former empires during the second half of the twentieth century, many of the same attitudes still persisted. Black Girl tells one such story of power and abuse.

Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) is really excited. After many days of trying to find a job in Dakar, she’s so happy to be working for the wealthy ‘Madam’ (Anne-Marie Jelinek) and ‘Monsieur’ (Robert Fontaine). Even better, her dreams have come true and she has been asked to move to the French Riviera to look after their children. When she arrives, she’s a little confused. The young ones aren’t here and she’s basically a prisoner in the small apartment.

Black Girl is a powerful indictment of a post-colonial attitude which still lingers to this very day. These entitled, prejudiced and discriminatory viewpoints were mirrored across many countries, not just in France. Black people, especially from former colonies, were often seen as second-class citizens. The legendary Ousmane Sembene’s first (feature) film takes many cues from the nouvelle vague while telling a distinctively African fable. Black Girl is powerful storytelling.

Special features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, undertaken by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • 4K restoration of the short film Borom sarret, director Ousmane Sembène’s acclaimed 1963 debut
  • New interviews with scholars Manthia Diawara and Samba Gadjigo
  • Excerpt from a 1966 broadcast of JT de 20h, featuring Sembène accepting the Prix Jean Vigo for Black Girl
  • New interview with actor M’Bissine Thérèse Diop
  • Sembène: The Making of African Cinema, a 1994 documentary about the filmmaker by Diawara and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  • Alternate color sequence
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Ashley Clark

Black Girl is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection in the UK on 27 June.

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