The Unforgettable: XALA (1975)
Xala, is a Wolof word for “temporary sexual impotence” 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 corruption in African post-independence governments. El Hadji’s impotence symbolizes the failure of such governments to be useful at all.
Senegal has finally won independence from France and the white members of the Chamber of Commerce have been thrown out. The people’s revolution of “African Socialism” begins as the black businessmen fill those empty seats, only to take enormous bribes that ensure the whites will secretly remain in power. One of these businessmen celebrates by marrying a third wife, but on the day of the wedding he finds he’s contracted the curse of Xala, rendering him impotent.
El Hadji Abdoukader Beye, a Senegalese entrepreneur and Muslim, takes on a third wife, 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 African leaders’ attitude after independence, underlining their greed and inability to step away from foreign influences. In the end, after losing nearly everything, the people he has robbed confront him, and offer to remove the spell—for a price.
|Directed by||Ousmane Sembène|
|Screenplay by||Ousmane Sembène|
|Based on||Xala by Ousmane Sembène|
|Produced by||Filmi Domireve SNC|
|Cinematography||Georges Caristan Orlando L. López Seydina D. Saye Farba Seck|
|Edited by||Florence Eymon|
|Music by||Samba Diabara Samb|
Société Nationale Cinématographique
|Distributed by||New Yorker Films (USA)|
|Release date||July 1975 (Moscow Film Festival)|
|Running time||123 minutes|