Safi Faye

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Safi Faye
Born (1943-11-22) November 22, 1943 (age 73)
Dakar, Senegal
Occupation Film director, ethnologist
Years active 1972–present

Safi Faye (born November 22, 1943) is a Senegalese film director and ethnologist.[1] She was the first Sub-Saharan African woman to direct a commercially distributed feature film. She has directed several documentary and fiction films focusing on rural life in Senegal.


Early life and education[edit]

Safi Faye was born in 1943 in Dakar, Senegal to a Serer family.[1] Her parents were from Fad'jal, a village south of Dakar.[2] She attended the Normal School in Rufisque and receiving her teaching certificate in 1962 or 1963, began teaching in Dakar.[2][3]

In 1966 she went to the Dakar Festival of Negro Arts and met French ethnologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch.[3] He encouraged her to use film making as an ethnographic tool.[3] She had an acting role in his 1971 film Petit à petit.[4] Faye has said that she dislikes Rouch's film but that working with him enabled her to learn about filmmaking and cinéma-vérité.[5] In the 1970s she studied ethnology at the École pratique des hautes études and then at the Lumière Film School.[2][4] She supported herself by working as a model, an actor and in film sound effects.[2] In 1979, she received a PhD in ethnology from the University of Paris.[1] From 1979 to 1980, Faye studied video production in Berlin and was a guest lecturer at the Free University of Berlin.[6] She received a further degree in ethnology from the Sorbonne in 1988.[1]

Film career[edit]

Faye's first film, which she also acted in, was a 1972 short called La Passante (The Passerby), drawn from her experiences as a foreign woman in Paris.[1][7] It follows a woman (Faye) walking down a street and noticing the reactions of men nearby.[5] Faye's first feature film was Kaddu Beykat which means The Voice of the Peasant in Wolof and was known internationally as Letter from My Village or News from My Village.[5] She obtained financial backing for Kaddu Beykat from the French Ministry of Cooperation.[2] Released in 1975, it was the first feature film to be made by a Sub-Saharan African woman to be commercially distributed and gained international recognition for Faye.[5][8] On its release it was banned in Senegal.[9] In 1976 it won the FIPRESCI Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics (tied with Chhatrabhang) and the OCIC Award.

Faye's 1983 documentary film Selbé: One Among Many follows a 39-year-old woman called Sélbe who works to support her eight children since her husband has left their village to look for work.[10] Selbé regularly converses with Faye, who remains off-screen, and describes her relationship with her husband and daily life in the village.[11]

Faye's films are better known in Europe than in her native Africa as a result of them rarely being shown in Africa.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Faye is divorced and has one daughter.[3] She lives in Paris.[3]




  1. ^ a b c d e Petrolle, p.177
  2. ^ a b c d e Foster, p. 130.
  3. ^ a b c d e Pfaff, Françoise. "Safi Faye". Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  4. ^ a b Ukadike, p. 29.
  5. ^ a b c d Spaas, p. 185.
  6. ^ a b Schmidt, p. 286.
  7. ^ Schmidt, p.287
  8. ^ Ukadike, p.30
  9. ^ "Africa Beyond". BBC. 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  10. ^ Thackway, p. 153
  11. ^ Thackway, p. 154


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