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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Black Girl')

Directed by Ousmane Sembene
France / Senegal 1966

 

Three times the length of his earlier short Borom Sarret (also included on the NY'er DVD and BFI Blu-ray), Ousmane Sembene's feature debut aims for the same condensed storytelling -- too much fumbled Nouvelle Vague fiddling gets in the way, yet it remains a remarkably resonant portrait of cultural (hence, spiritual) dislocation and death. Picked out of a street corner where Africans looking for work are surveyed by trendy whites in shades, the title character (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) gets transplanted from her Dakar home to the Riviera apartment of a French couple (Anne-Marie Jelinek, Robert Fontaine), where her dreams of lushness shrink as her babysitting gig balloons into a full-time stint as maid, cook, and all-around exotic trophy. "Why am I here? I will not be her slave anymore," she seethes in her narration, yet her revolt is kept unspoken, sulking in bed cloaking depths of pained cultural displacement, the black figure slumped in an ivory bathtub, bloody razor in hand. As always with Sembene, the narrative snowballs meaning from throwaway details novelistically planted in the flow (a trio of strolling Senegalese businessmen, radical posters plastered in the boyfriend's flat), so that a tribal mask grows from token object d'art to tug-of-war prize to, ultimately, the accusing spirit of a continent still reeling from the shackle welts. Symbolism or not, Sembene's depiction of oppressor-oppressed dynamics is far less simplistic than usually noted -- the Europeans are not so much villainous as complacently clueless to the suffering of their servant, Diop's zombified mutiny amounts to sullen compliance, with both sides locked in a cycle of exploitation and servitude. The circularity of the structure, then, serves as clarification of the mechanics of colonialism: a black girl posed against the harsh polished floors of the French homeland, a white boss guiltily shoving cash at her mother back in the village, and a little African boy peeking from behind the mask, in medium shot at Fontaine, then finally, in close-up, at us.

Excerpt of Fernando F. Croce review at Cinemapassion.org HERE

 

 Theatrical Release: January 12th, 1969

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Comparison:

New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI  Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

  

Distribution New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion Collection - Spine # 852 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 55:44 plus Barom Sarret (18:06) 0:59:17.416 plus Barom Sarret (0:20:04.333) 0:59:40.618 plus Barom Sarret (0:20:01.825 )
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.77 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,470,465,730 bytes

Feature: 18,471,585,792 bytes

Video Bitrate: 37.95 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,688,300,201 bytes

Feature: 17,684,287,488 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.41 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: BFI Black Girl Blu-ray:

Bitrate: BFI Borom Sarret Blu-ray:

Bitrate: Criterion Borom Sarret Blu-ray:

Bitrate: Criterion Borom Sarret Blu-ray:

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0)  LPCM Audio French 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• The short Barom Sarret

DVD Release Date: November 22nd, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 18  / Borom Sarret has 8 chapters

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,470,465,730 bytes

Feature: 18,471,585,792 bytes

Video Bitrate: 37.95 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Alternative colour-sequence version of Black Girl (59:17)
Sembène: The Making of African Cinema (Manthia Diawara, Thiong'o Ngugi-wa, 1994, 1:00:36): award-winning feature-length documentary about the pioneering Senegalese filmmaker
Snatches of a conversation with Thérèse M'Bisine Diop (2005, 13:48): an interview with the star of Black Girl filmed in Senegal
Sembène: a portrait (D. Sentilhes, B.Josse, 2003, 12:04): an illustrated chronology of the director's life in film
Booklet featuring a newly commissioned essay by Samba Gadjigo, and full film credits

PAL DVD of the features
 

Blu-ray Release Date: October 19th, 2015
Transparent Blu-ray case

Chapters 4

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,688,300,201 bytes

Feature: 17,684,287,488 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.41 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


Edition Details:

• New interviews with scholars Manthia Diawara (21:37) and Samba Gadjigo (19:51)
• Excerpt from a 1966 broadcast of JT de 20h, featuring Sembène accepting the Prix Jean Vigo for Black Girl (2:03)
• New interview with actor M’Bissine Thérèse Diop (12:32)
• Sembène: The Making of African Cinema, a 1994 documentary about the filmmaker by Diawara and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1:00:38)
• Alternate color sequence (1:09)
• Trailer (1:21)

On Borom Sarret (12:36)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Ashley Clark


Blu-ray Release Date:
January 24th, 2016
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 15

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray - December 2016: Like TH BFI - this contains recently restored transfers of Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl and Borom Sarret.

 

Not that much to say in terms of difference - like the BFI Blu-ray - these films are restored by The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project in association with Martin Scorsese. The restoration of Black Girl was made from the original camera negative and sound negative provided by INA and the Sembene Estate and preserved at the CNC - Archives francaise du film. The camera negative was wet-scanner at 4K resolution and underwent extensive digital restoration to minimize visible spots (due to processing errors and aggravated by time) and scratches on the image. A vintage print preserved at the Cinemathque Francaise was used a reference.


The restoration of Borom Sarret was made possible through the use of the original camera and sound negatives provided by INA and preserved at Eclair Laboratories. The film as scanned at 4K and restored. The image was digitally stabilized and cleaned, and all the wear marks were eliminated. Image grading helped recover the richness of the original cinematography. After digitization, the soundtrack was digitally cleaned and background noise reduction was applied to eliminate wear marks, without losing any of the dynamic features of the original soundtrack.

 

The Criterion black levels can be a bit darker and richer. Often the static captures can show very little difference.

 

Criterion also use a linear PCM track but theirs is mono and 24-bit and they get a slight nod for superiority and original authenticity. They also have optional English subtitles and their Blu-ray disc is region 'A'-locked.

 

NOTE: On Criterion's Borom Serret - it has lossy audio - Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps.

 

Criterion include new interviews with filmmaker and cultural theorist Manthia Diawara (author of African Cinema: Politics and Culture) who analyzes Sembene;s 1966 film for 22-minutes and filmmaker and professor of French Samba Gadjigo for 20-minutes - he characterizes what defines the work of director Ousmane Sembene. There is also a new, 13-minute, interview with actor M’Bissine Thérèse Diop who covers her lead role in Black Girl. Criterion include a 2-minute excerpt from a 1966 broadcast of JT de 20h, featuring Sembène accepting the Prix Jean Vigo for Black Girl plus we get Sembène: The Making of African Cinema (also found on the BFI), - an hour long, 1994 documentary about the filmmaker by Diawara and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. It covers his struggles with a detailed portrayal of his works. For those interested the short alternate color sequence is included and a trailer. As discussed the disc includes Borom Sarret and a 12-minute piece entitled On Borom Sarret, The package has a liner notes essay by critic Ashley Clark.

 

Such and impacting film - every time I see it. An easy must-own for world cinema fans. Again, our highest recommendation!

 

***

ADDITION: BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (September 2015): You can clearly see the superiority over the 10-year old unconverted PAL->NTSC New Yorker SD treatment, although the DVD may show a shade more information in the frame. Contrast is significantly improved on the new 1080P - both Black Girl and Borom Sarret are on the same dual-layered disc and have max'ed out bitrates. They both look awesome - notably so in comparison to my old DVD.

 

Audio - via linear PCM - also is a huge leap over the older digital format package. The subtitles are optional and it seems BFI have done an amazing job in transferring the restoration to Blu-ray.

 

BFI add quite a lot of supplements. We get the alternative color-sequence version of Black Girl (it has only one short scene in color), an hour-long documentary; Sembène: The Making of African Cinema by Manthia Diawara and Thiong'o Ngugi-wafrom 1994. It is an award-winning piece about the pioneering Senegalese filmmaker. Snatches of a conversation with Thérèse M'Bisine Diop is a 1/4 of an hour from 2005 - an interview with the star of Black Girl filmed in Senegal. Sembène is a 2003 illustrated chronology of the director's life in film by D. Sentilhes + B. Josse - running about 12 -minutes. The package has a linere notes booklet featuring a newly commissioned essay by Samba Gadjigo, and full film credits.

 

This is important and impressive cinema. No world cinephile library should be without this Blu-ray edition. Masterful filmmaking and now available in a dynamically improved presentation with valuable extras. Our highest recommendation!

 

***

ON THE DVD: Not dissimilar to Ny'er other Ousmane Sembene films on DVD; Xala and Mandabi. On one hand we can be disappointed with the transfer but again it is more understandable as the elements cannot have been in anywhere near pristine condition. Aside from Artificial Eye's stellar Moolaadé (from more recent elements - ie. 2004) I wasn't expecting much from his older films. It really just a pleasure to finally be able to see some of this early, and magnificent work. Having the original short, Barom Sarret, is an almost mandatory addition to the package but I know many fans of this master narrative filmmaker were hoping for much more. Frankly I am thankful that someone at New Yorker has identified the need for  exposing Sembene's work to the digital audience. Subtitles are removable and seem acceptably done. I recommend this DVD for film scholars and those keen on learning about Sembene, just be aware that the quality is reflective of the print limitations and age of the source. 

Gary W. Tooze





DVD Menus

Borom Sarret Menu

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray


 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray captures of Black Girl

1) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture from the brief color sequence version of Black Girl

 

1) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


(aka 'The Wagoner")

Directed by Ousmane Sembene
France / Senegal 1969

 

1) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures of Borom Sarret

 

Box Covers

  

Distribution New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion Collection - Spine # 852 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

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