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Episode Guide

Xala

Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène's multi-themed satire, based on his own novel, offers a withering view on his country's political class, explores tensions between tradition and modernity, and reveals where the true balance of power lies in the battle of the sexes.

El Hadj Abdoukader Beye (Thierno Leye) is a businessman who is suddenly and lucratively elevated to the board of the Chamber of Commerce. About to marry his third wife, he invites his new colleagues to his opulent wedding reception.

It should be a happy occasion but Beye seems to be marrying more for status than love; and his other wives (one very traditional, the other modern in outlook and style) and his feminist eldest daughter all disapprove of the union.

On his wedding night, he is struck impotent by a xala (curse) before his young bride. And, as El Hadj desperately searches for a cure, his business and his political ambitions start to unravel: it's clear the xala is intended to ruin more than just his sex life. But who has blighted him?

The soundtrack also echoes the culture-clash theme; the nascent Afro-Latin pop of the Star Band de Dakar (a couple of years before Youssou N'Dour started his career with them) provides the sonic backdrop to Beye and his cronies, while strident griot troubadour songs lambast their excesses.

In Wolof and French, with English subtitles.

Xala synopsis

Pin-sharp satire set in post-colonial Senegal

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