Now Film/Video | Classics

Sambizanga

(Sarah Maldoror, 1972) 

Film History 101

A young Black woman wearing a blue head covering and floral wrap dress talks to a shirtless young Black boy standing to her right.

A wife and mother tirelessly works for the release of her jailed activist husband in Sarah Maldoror's powerful, award-winning film Sambizanga.

Set in 1961 before the Angolan War of Independence from Portugal, Sambizanga tells the story of jailed activist Domingos Xavier’s wife, Maria, (played by Cape Verdean economist Elisa Andrade). The film uses tightly framed shots as it shows Maria, with her young son in tow, walking from prison to prison searching for news about her imprisoned spouse only to be stonewalled by a series of colonial officials. Through Maria’s quest to find her husband, Sambizanga denounces colonial cruelty while it highlights the solidarity of a people and the awareness that will lead to the struggle for its independence. 
 
French director Maldoror (who passed away in 2020 at the age of 90 from COVID–19) worked as an assistant on Gillo Pontecorvo’s landmark The Battle of Algiers (1966) and, with Sambizanga, became one of the first women to direct a feature film in Africa. She went on to make over 45 films throughout her career. (102 mins., 4K DCP)
 
On February 4, the film will be introduced by Dareen Hussein, PhD Candidate in History of Art and Wex Graduate Curatorial Intern and a Q&A with Annouchka de Andrade follows the screening. Sambizanga is screened in conjunction with the exhibition Sarah Maldoror: Tricontinental Cinema, which is on view in the galleries through April 28. 

Film History 101

The Films You Need to See Before You Graduate 

One of the biggest surprises in moviegoing trends of the past two years has been the renewed audience interest in seeing older films in theaters. This series offers students—and general audiences interested in cinema history—monthly opportunities to see some of the most essential and exciting films ever made on the big screen! Over the academic year, the films will range from established classics to more recently discovered gems. 

"Maldoror confronts head on the capricious violence and cruelty of the colonial system and the will necessary to overthrow it."
A young Black woman wearing a blue head covering and floral wrap dress talks to a shirtless young Black boy standing to her right.

Sambizanga, courtesy of Janus Films.

Close up of a young Black woman’s face, looking into the camera. She wears a blue head covering and holds a baby over her shoulder.

Sambizanga, courtesy of Janus Films.

More about the artist

Sarah Maldoror chevron-down chevron-up

Sarah Maldoror was born Sarah Ducados in 1929 in the town of Condom in Gers, France. The child of a Guadeloupean father and French mother, Maldoror matriculated into the intellectual and artistic ferment of 1950s Paris, where she cofounded the first Black theater troupe in France. Rechristening herself in homage to Isidor Ducasse’s proto-Surrealist book Les Chants de Maldoror (1868–69), she earned a scholarship to study filmmaking in Moscow, where she counted future Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène among her classmates at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). After decamping from Moscow to Morocco, her stint as assistant director of Gillo Pontecorvo’s insurrectionary classic The Battle of Algiers (1966) set the course for Maldoror’s first film, Monangambée (1969)—an exploration of colonial violence during the Angolan national liberation movement—followed by Sambizanga (also screened at the Wex in 2022). In the decades thereafter, Maldoror directed more than 45 films, many of which feature leading voices of Négritude and Pan-Africanism.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Sarah Maldoror: Tricontinental Cinema.

SUPPORT FOR FILM/VIDEO PROGRAMS PROVIDED BY

National Endowment for the Arts
Ohio Humanities 
 
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR FILM/VIDEO PROGRAMS PROVIDED BY

Rohauer Collection Foundation
 
WEXNER CENTER PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY 
Ohio Department of Development

Greater Columbus Arts Council

The Wexner Family

Institute of Museum and Library Services

Ohio Arts Council
, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts
CampusParc

Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme

The Columbus Foundation

Nationwide Foundation

Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease 

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
Mike and Paige Crane
Axium Packaging
Nancy Kramer
Ohio State Energy Partners
Ohio History Fund/Ohio History Connection
Larry and Donna James
Bruce and Joy Soll
Rebecca Perry Damsen and Ben Towle
Jones Day
Alex and Renée Shumate

Close

Now Film/Video

Sambizanga