"Black Girl" (1965), his debut feature, is seen by many as the first African film. It combines realism and traditional African narrative to tell the story of Diouana, a young woman who commits suicide after traveling to Europe with her French employers. This is a theme he pursued in his films: the tension between tradition and modernity and women's role in society. He exposed colonial damage with tenderness and a profound respect for African culture.
His last film, Molade (2004), dealth with the subject of female circumcision, a heavy subject by any account but which Sembene managed to handle with typical warmth and humour.