West Indies | © Viennale


The Founder of African Cinema

SOLEIL O | © Viennale

Med Hondo was born in Mauritania in 1936 and emigrated to France in 1959, where he died in 2019. He became known as an actor and voice actor, but above all as a project catalyst in the theater and film industry, making independent voices from postcolonial Africa heard. His films explore the conflicts over African territory, its history and its relations with Europe, examining the power struggles and cultural influences of the colonial period. Hondo thus became one of the most important directors and producers of the early days of African cinema and can be considered its pioneer and founder. Only in recent times, however, has his work received the recognition it deserves and been disseminated accordingly.

SARRAOUINA | © Viennale

We will present nine of Hondo’s films from European and American archives, which, recently restored, now shine in new splendor. These include his directorial debut, SOLEIL Ô, an excellent example of the creativity and uniqueness that distinguishes African cinema from the American and European film tradition.

Hondo’s works explore various styles and genres, from melodrama and documentary to musical. In the experimental film LES BICOTS-NÈGRES VOS VOISINS (1974), he critically examined decolonization; in WEST INDIES (1979), he created an epic, satirical musical about the history of the French Antilles; in SARRAOUNIA (1986), he told the true story of the West African queen of the same name who fought French colonial troops; and with LUMIÈRE NOIRE (1994), he shot a crime thriller about France’s assaults on immigrants.

A veritable lesson from a cinematographic master.

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