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Most of Ousmane Sembene's public statements have been advocating the pressing need to challenge the current French control over African film distribution, and to explore the cultural heritage of his country.
In Emitai, he has made a him which is set at the end of the Second World War, but whose concern is a contemporary one about colonisation and national identity.
The French colonials in Senegal, supporting the war against Germany, are ordered to obtain food for their troops by whatever means possible. The Diola people, practisers of fetishism, are ordered to make supplies of rice available They refuse, their crops being vital to their own existence, and on the advice of their gods, make what turns out to be a disastrous attack upon the French News arrives about the end of the war, but the 'disciplining' of the rebellious tribe has now become the central issue, and the result is the type of tragedy we have come to know too well.
Of Emitai, Sembene has said 'I want to show the very special relationship between the Diola tribe and its gods Emitai is one of several gods and goddesses who appear and disappear in this small village to decide things for the community. For the Diolas, who are a very mystical people, these spirits are intermediaries between themselves and the true gods. Although they are mythological beings, very much like the Greek gods, they materialize from time to time in human form and hold chanted discussions with the people ... I have never seen any of these spirits, but I respect them. They are an important part of our cultural heritage, just as Christianity is an important part of our Western world We must understand our traditions before we can hope to understand ourselves '