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Black Diaspora Cinema

Kaddu Beykat

Safi Faye


One of the most internationally renowned African film directors, Safi Faye was the first woman from Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve, with Kaddu Beykat, commercial distribution of a feature film. Thanks to its markedly poetic content, formal hybridisation, and political reach, it received the FIPRESCI Award in Berlin, the French Georges Sadoul Film Award, and a Special mention in FESPACO, as well as becoming a cult film for African filmmakers and the diaspora of later generations.

Interested in the possibilities of cinéma verité, Safi Faye travelled from Senegal to Paris to study ethnography and cinema after meeting Jean Rouch (having acted in Petit à petit, 1971). While in France she made several short documentary and fictional films, after which she returned to her home village (Fad’jal) to film an ethnographic docudrama narrated in her own voice in the form of a letter from a woman in the village to her friend.

Safi Faye’s first feature film, Kaddu Beykat was initially banned in her homeland, Senegal, because of its criticism of national agricultural policies that were the legacy of colonialism. Filmed by a team of three, in the Serer language, during the rainy season, this ethnographic experimental fiction would situate Safi Faye in the international film scene, a position that would be consolidated some years later with her feature film Mossane (1996). In Kaddu Beykat, Ngor wants to marry the young Columba but, since the drought has affected the groundnut harvest, he must go to work in the city in order to make enough to pay the bride price. In Dakar, amid the rampant corruption of the new urban middle class, he is exploited and, shortly afterwards, he must return to the village where life is paced by the rhythm of the seasons and work in the fields. Narrated by Faye herself in the form of a letter by a young villager to her friend, and mixing professional and amateur actors, the film takes viewers into the heart of Serer culture, presenting the harsh reality of the rural population at a point where village life meets neocolonial capitalism in the first decades after independence. Dedicated to her grandfather who died shortly after the film was shot, Kaddu Beykat, a careful blend of the documentary, fiction, and personal reflections, became a film of reference for younger filmmakers like Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Abderrahmane Sissako, Raoul Peck, and Jean-Marie Teno, who would use in their own debut films the formal experimentation, the device of the letter with its voice-over, and the homecoming to reflect on their role as emigre artists, and contemporary international networks of solidarity and connectedness.

Kaddu Beykat
Safi Faye
1975 / France / Senegal / DVD / 90 min / Original version with Spanish subtitles

Presenter: Roser Caminal (visual artist). Prerecorded presentation.

This activity is part of William Kentridge, Black Diaspora Cinema

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