Ousmane Sembene

The first film director from an African country to achieve international recognition, Ousmane Sembene remains the major figure in the rise of an independent post-colonial African cinema. Sembene's roots were not, as might be expected, in the educated elite. After working as a mechanic and bricklayer, he joined the Free French forces in 1942, serving in Africa and France. In 1946, he returned to Dakar, where he participated in the great railway strike of 1947. The next year he returned to France, where he worked in a Citroen factory in Paris, and then, for ten years, on the dock in Marseilles. During this time Sembene became very active in trade union struggles and began an extraordinarily successful writing career. His first novel, "Le Docker Noir," was published in 1956 to critical acclaim. Since then, he has produced a number of works which have placed him in the foreground of the international literary scene.