Well, here we go again. The ol' silver screen is alight once more with images of Indians swirling through the murky mists of time, replete with all the paint, ponies and feathers demanded by the box office. True, we are not confronted in this instance with the likes of Chuck Conners playing Geronimo, Victor Mature standing in as Chief Crazy Horse, or Jeff Chandler cast in the role of Broken Arrow's Cochise. Nor are we beset by the sort of wanton anti-Indianism which runs so rampant in John Ford's 'Stagecoach,' 'Fort Apache,' 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' and 'Sergeant Rutledge.' Even the sort of 'rebel without a cause' trivialization of Indian anger offered by Robert Blake in 'Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here' - or Lou Diamond Philips in 'Young Guns' and 'Young Guns II' - is not at hand. Yet, in some ways the 1990 'Indian movie,' a cinematic extravaganza packaged under the title 'Dances With Wolves,' is just as bad.
A slight but sturdy Senegalese, Ousmane Sembene is a charming and provocative conversationalist, a committed revolutionary. He is also a Third World film-maker of major force and accomplishment, whose international reputation as Africa's most important director is based remarkably on a total output of five films by the early 1970s, though he was previously well known as a novelist. As a leading spokesman of sub-Sahara's black artistry, Sembene travelled the world personally, projecting his films and spreading his basic message of pride and confidence in the heritage and culture of Africa's native peoples. On such occasions in America and on the Continent, the films of Sembene have been heralded. In Africa, however, these volatile works are often banned, typically through pressure brought by the French government, which maintains a vigilant watch over its former colonies. By the mid 1970s, only Sembene's first full-length feature, 'Mandabi,' had been widely distributed outside of Senegal.