Any Price !
I want to be a Man again
says El Hadji, the protagonist, polygamist, corrupt businessman who forms the central character of Xala, a film by Ousmane Sembene. Xala is a vivid portrayal of the contradiction of Senegalese life post independence from their French colionolists. As the drums die out, the celebration of freedom and independence is replaced by a muted resignation; for nothing has changed. The white man ruled the black man before the independence, now it is the turn of the higher black man to rule the lower black man with the white man’s money. The opening sequence of the film brilliantly captures this- As the traditional costumes are replaced by sharp business suits and by empty speeches of socialism, the white man comes with money in hand to buy out the black ‘buisnessmen’.
El Hadji, a corrupt businessmen uses bribed money to buy himself a third wife. With the purchase follows the big night after the wedding. And, what do you think happend ? Impotence or Xala struck. The movie is at once a critique of polygamy, of the influence of european culture on the traditional but most of all it is a critique of the black man’s dream to become white. This dream is not limited to Senegal or Africa. Instances of it can be seen across the colonized world- in India with the adoption of westernized beliefs, in Pakistan, in Trinidad, in Latin America… It seems as if the colonized suffer from an all pervading Stockholm syndrome. As the urban or rich section of the population transform into “Europeans” the country expectedly goes through a cultural crisis. It is the crisis of a country without a past and without a history to claim as its own. What follows is an inevitable rift between the newly westernized and the nationalists, not unlike fundamentalism in Middle East. Ousmane shows us delicate glimpses of this in the confrontations between the French speaking El Hadji and his nationalist daughter Rama.