Safi Faye

Intro Ethnologist and film director
Is Film director Anthropologist Actor Film actor
From Senegal
Type Film, Television, Stage and Radio Social science
Gender female
Birth 22 November 1943, Dakar, Senegal
Star sign Sagittarius

Safi Faye (born November 22, 1943) is a Senegalese film director and ethnologist. She was the first Sub-Saharan African woman to direct a commercially distributed feature film, Kaddu Beykat, which was released in 1975. She has directed several documentary and fiction films focusing on rural life in Senegal.


Early life and education

Safi Faye was born in 1943 in Dakar, Senegal, to an aristocratic Serer family. Her parents, the Fayes, were from Fad'jal, a village south of Dakar. She attended the Normal School in Rufisque and receiving her teaching certificate in 1962 or 1963, began teaching in Dakar. In 1966 she went to the Dakar Festival of Negro Arts and met French ethnologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch. He encouraged her to use film making as an ethnographic tool. She had an acting role in his 1971 film Petit à petit. Faye has said that she dislikes Rouch's film but that working with him enabled her to learn about filmmaking and cinéma-vérité. In the 1970s she studied ethnology at the École pratique des hautes études and then at the Lumière Film School. She supported herself by working as a model, an actor and in film sound effects. In 1979, she received a PhD in ethnology from the University of Paris. From 1979 to 1980, Faye studied video production in Berlin and was a guest lecturer at the Free University of Berlin. She received a further degree in ethnology from the Sorbonne in 1988.

Film career

Faye's first film, in which she also acted, was a 1972 short called La Passante (The Passerby), drawn from her experiences as a foreign woman in Paris. It follows a woman (Faye) walking down a street and noticing the reactions of men nearby. Faye's first feature film was Kaddu Beykat, which means The Voice of the Peasant in Wolof and was known internationally as Letter from My Village or News from My Village. She obtained financial backing for Kaddu Beykat from the French Ministry of Cooperation. Released in 1975, it was the first feature film to be made by a Sub-Saharan African woman to be commercially distributed and gained international recognition for Faye. On its release it was banned in Senegal. In 1976 it won the FIPRESCI Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics (tied with Chhatrabhang) and the OCIC Award. Faye's 1983 documentary film Selbé: One Among Many follows a 39-year-old woman called Sélbe who works to support her eight children since her husband has left their village to look for work. Selbé regularly converses with Faye, who remains off-screen, and describes her relationship with her husband and daily life in the village. Faye's films are better known in Europe than in her native Africa, where they are rarely shown.

Personal life

Faye, who lives in Paris, is divorced and has one daughter.

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