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Xala (1974)

 Makhouredia Gueye Fatim Diagne , Ousmane Sembene  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors:  Makhouredia Gueye Fatim Diagne
  • Directors: Ousmane Sembene
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French, Wolof
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: New Yorker
  • DVD Release Date: May 31, 2005
  • Run Time: 123 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009ETCP6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,128 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Xala" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Wealthy businessman and community leader El Hadji (Thierno Leye) has been known to take a bribe on occasion. He has two wives and has just taken a (much younger) third, when he succumbs to a xala, or curse, and is unable to consummate the marriage. In his search for a cure, Hadji first loses his standing, then his fortune. Even his wives start to abandon him. He has become impotent in every sense of the word. Based on his novel of the same name, Ousmane Sembene’s fourth film is unsparing in its critique of Senegalese men, like Hadji, who claim to be enemies of colonialism and defenders of "Africanity," yet insist on speaking French, consume only imported goods, and view the less fortunate as "human rubbish." As with Luis Buñuel before him, Sembene (Moolaadé) finds the "charm of the bourgeoisie" to be very "discreet" indeed in this devastating dark comedy. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Product Description

This savagely funny satire portrays El Hadji, a prosperous, self-satisfied, politically crooked modern businessman who is struck down by the xala (pronounced "ha-la") - a curse rendering its victim impotent. While he chases after witch doctors and soothsayers on a frantic, often hilarious search for a cure, his impotence becomes a mirror of the powerlessness of young African nations over dependent on white technology.

Unable to consummate his third (polygamous) marriage, and neglecting his business affairs and political activities as he seeks a cure, his social stature is stripped away, leaving him shamed and humiliated. And while humorous, there is a sympathy in his downfall at the hands of others who are even more corrupt than he is.

XALA is a moving and comical look at a man caught up in the corruption of his country and the tribulations of a changing society.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skewering of the Senegalese "businessman" December 11, 2005
This 1974 gem, by multi-talented filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, is a brutal attack on the enthusiastic appropriation by the Senegalese upper class of French colonialist culture and its dire consequences. Sembene not only wrote and directed the film; he also wrote the novel on which the film was based.

In it, El Hadji, the protagonist, is one of a number of the business and political elite of Dakar (capital of Senegal) who, at the film's opening, accepts a briefcase full of payoff money from the French, presumably to "encourage" continued French business development in the country after Senegal has won its independence. But while spouting homilites attesting to Senegal's independence as a true African state, these members of the elite speak in nothing but French and look down their noses at those who speak Wolof, the native language. Even, in El Hadji's case, his daughter from his first marriage.

He also decries the beggars in the streets, some of whom are disturbingly affected with serious malnutrition and physical conditions like spina bifida, and one of whom, as it turns out, is a relative of El Hadji's. The latter weds his third wife, much younger than he, but is then struck with the eponymous condition of the title, the xala, which is a curse rendering him impotent.

His second wife is furiously jealous of his third. His first wife is more patient. But perhaps the most vituperative of all his enemies are ultimately his "fellow" bribees, who, in one brilliant scene, attack him for his actions that are careless enough to prevent the others in this group from being able to reap more bribes and other corrupt sources of income. He lashes back at them with how tainted they all are, including him, and then suffers the consequences.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Xala August 23, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Overlooked gem amusingly demonstrates polygamy isn't all it's cracked up to be. It also operates in darker vein as one man benefits from a corrupt government that is then, all too quick to turn against him. By turns hilarious and frightening, Xala is like nothing you've seen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough Love June 4, 2005
By khense
Ousmane Sembene is the Godfather of tough love. In "Xala" the likable "everyman" is only human. Finding himself immersed in easy money and asking no questions, he goes for the perks enjoyed by ancestral chieftans, throwing a big celebration to take a third wife two generations younger. However after he is dismissive of a prescribed ritual just prior to the wedding night, "Xala" the curse descends on him like falling dominoes. A love of people combined with mean spirited humor and a strong ending fire this storytelling into a timeless gem.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Curse December 28, 2006
In the mid 1960's Ousmane Sembene moved from the literary world to the cinematic world. Probably in a hope to disseminate the social purpose of his work to a wider and more accessible audience (the fickle world of film distribution however has generally not been fair to African cinema). "Xala" builds on many of the concerns explored in his first short film "Borom Sarret" and is also based upon his own novel. The authorship of this film is unquestionably Sembene's, and in his documentary style, use of camera and thematic continuity Sembene's status as an auteur is assured. The biting satirical tone of the film however is something of an innovation, with Sembene preferring to use comedy to highlight the absurdities and hypocrisies of neo-colonialism. As well as pointing out that European power continues to rule by proxy in Senegal, Sembene also explores the traditions of his own culture and suggests that a number of fundamental problems lie within these outmoded Senegalese traditions. A rejection of polygamy becomes the cause celebre of the film, and Sembene seems to suggest that with such practices still in existence what real hope does Senegal have in progressing into the modern world. This binary opposition between culture and tradition and modernity becomes the most important issue in the film. However the uncertain conclusion suggests that it is not possible to cherry pick those aspects to retain and those to reject. This is a complex piece of work aided by some impressive photography, however it must be stated that the pace is leaden and its lack of spectacle will probably not endear it to a multiplex Hollywood audience.
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Topic From this Discussion
Lack of "Moolaade" on DVD
I believe that this film will be released on DVD eventually (I hope not too eventually), but not until after it has had something like a wide theatrical release in the U.S..
Feb 9, 2007 by T. P. Ballew |  See all 2 posts
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