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DVD Cover
Directed byOusmane Sembène
Screenplay byOusmane Sembène
Based onXala by Ousmane Sembène
Produced byFilmi Domireve SNC
StarringThierno Leye,
Seune Samb,
Douta Seck,
Younousse Sèye,
Fatim Diagne,
Myriam Niang
CinematographyGeorges Caristan Orlando L. López Seydina D. Saye Farba Seck
Edited byFlorence Eymon
Music bySamba Diabara Samb
Films Domireew
Société Nationale Cinématographique
Distributed byNew Yorker Films (USA)
Release date
  • July 1975 (1975-07) (Moscow Film Festival)
Running time
123 minutes

Xala (pronounced [ˈxala], Wolof for "temporary sexual impotence"[1]) is a 1975 Senegalese film directed by Ousmane Sembène. It is an adaptation of Sembène's 1973 novel of the same name. The film depicts El Hadji, a businessman in Senegal, who is cursed with crippling erectile dysfunction upon the day of his marriage to his third wife. The film satirizes the corruption in African post-independence governments; El Hadji's impotence symbolizes the failure of such governments to be useful at all.[2]


El Hadji Abdoukader Beye, a Senegalese businessman and a Muslim, takes on a third wife, thereby demonstrating his social and economic success. On the wedding night he discovers that he is incapable of consummating the marriage; he has become impotent. At the beginning, he suspects that one or both of his first two wives have put the spell on him, without realizing that he walks by the true guilty party every day (beggars and people he has stolen from). Much of his journey leads to many efforts to remove the spell, only to not notice that his business empire is falling around him. The film criticizes the African leaders' attitude after Independence, underlining their greed and their inability to step away from foreign influences.[3] In the end, after losing nearly everything, the people he has robbed confront him, and offer to remove the spell—for a price.


  • El Hadji Abdoukader Beye, a Senegalese businessman
  • Rama, Beye's daughter with his first wife
  • Adja Awa Astou, Beye's first wife
  • Oumi Ndoye, the second wife
  • Ngoné, the third wife
  • Modu, El Hadji's chauffeur
  • Sérigne Mada, a marabout
  • The president of the chamber of commerce
  • Dupont-Durand, the president's chaperone


Xala was released at the Moscow Film Festival in July 1975.

Xala received a home video release in 2005. The DVD has been out of print for some time.


Critical reception[edit]


Aaron Mushengyezi wrote: "I posit that in Xala, he evokes two problematic binary oppositions: between the corruption and decadence of foreign influence and the purity and morality of African tradition, the former represented as 'corrupting' and the latter 'redemptive'; and between strong, revolutionary 'masculine' women and villainous, weak, 'feminine' men."[4]

Another scholarly perspective is from Harriet D. Lyons: "I shall argue that in Sembene's work the "covertness" of the folk material takes the form of suppression of detail combined with the retention of essential values. Sembene is thereby able to use folk elements in such a way as to give the work political implications that go well beyond the preservation and/or revival of a local tradition. One can, therefore, examine the folk elements of Xala without fear of consigning yet another expression of African creativity to the museum of primitive art." [5]


The film was entered into the 9th Moscow International Film Festival.[6]

Festival Internacional de Cine de Karlovy Vary 1976

The film ranked #83 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Xala". filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
  2. ^ Malcolm, Derek (21 December 2000). "Ousmane Sembene: Xala". Century of Films. The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
  3. ^ FCAT
  4. ^ Mushengyezi, Aaron (2004). "Reimaging Gender and African Tradition? Ousmane Sembène's Xala Revisited". Africa Today. 51 (1): 47–62. doi:10.1353/at.2004.0070. S2CID 144701974.
  5. ^ Lyons, Harriet D. (1984). "The Uses of Ritual in Sembene's Xala". Canadian Journal of African Studies. 18 (2): 319–328. doi:10.2307/484332. JSTOR 484332.
  6. ^ "9th Moscow International Film Festival (1975)". MIFF. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-06.
  7. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 83. Xala". Empire. Retrieved 2022-03-01.

External links[edit]