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West Indies ou les nègres marrons de la Liberté

West Indies
Still from the film "West Indies" by Med Hondo. We see a group of men and women dancers facing the camera while standing on a replica slave ship bearing the words "Liberté Égalité, Fraternité"
© Ciné-Archives
  • Director

    Med Hondo

  • France, Algeria, Mauritania / 1979
    115 min. / Original version with English subtitles

  • Original language


It’s winter in France, the light is dull, the camera pans over a snowy wasteland and enters a massive construction of steel and glass that is open at the sides, stopping in front of the reproduction of a wooden ship. The structure that juts out over the upper deck is inscribed with the words ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’.
Med Hondo uses this tracking shot to establish the setting of his feature film WEST INDIES OU LES NÈGRES MARRONS DE LA LIBERTÉ (1979), while opening up a much larger space to the imagination at the same time. The ship turns out to be a most versatile stage for a grotesque narrative of colonialism, slavery and the struggle for independence in the French West Indies. Med Hondo explores his many themes in this limited space, whether it be the Middle Passage, marronage, abolition or the history of labour migration to France. The film marries an aesthetics of thrift with the flamboyance of a musical; different time periods glide into one other as elegantly as the geographical points of reference; and only occasionally do the actors’ visible exhalations, a alienation effect created by the cold, remind us that WEST INDIES was not shot on Martinique. (Cristina Nord)

Med Hondo was born in 1936 in Atar, Mauritania. He emigrated to France in the late 1950s, where he founded a theatre group in Paris and turned towards film. His first feature-length work Soleil Ô (Berlinale Forum 1971), attracted international attention. His films address the history of the African continent and its diaspora. He died in Paris in 2019.

Production Med Hondo. Production company Les Films Soleil Ô (Paris, France). Director Med Hondo. Screenplay Med Hondo after the theatre play "Les négriers" de Daniel Boukman. Cinematography François Catonné. Editing Youcef Tobni. Music Georges Rabol, Frank Valmont. Sound Antoine Bonfanti. Costumes Michèle Feuilleux, Ghyslain Martin, Michèle Cerf, Marie-Dominique Gerbet. Make-up Josiane Deschamps, Fatiha Rahou, Julie Cerf. Choreography Linda Dingwall. Assistant directors Jean Leon, Philippe Dupuis Mendel, Abdul War. Production manager Christine Gozlan. Co-production O.N.C.M. (Office National de Cinema Mauritanien), R.T.A. (Radio Télévision Algérienne), I.P.C. (Société Interafricaine de Production Cinématographique), Yanek Films. With Robert Liensol, Hélène Vincent, Toto Bissainthe, Cyril Aventurin, Gabriel Glissant, Elsie Haas, Theo Légetimus, Philippe Clévenot, Fernand Bersert, Josy Mass.

World sales Ciné-Archives

Films: 1969: Balade aux sources / Ballad to the Springs (25 min.), Partout ou peut-être nulle part / Everywhere, or Maybe Nowhere (30 min.). 1970: Soleil Ô / Oh, Sun (108 min.). 1971: Mes voisins / My Neighbours (35 min.). 1973: Les Bicots-nègres, vos voisins / Arabs and Niggers, Your Neighbours (190 min.). 1977: Nous aurons toute la mort pour dormer (160 min.). 1979: West Indies, ou les nègres marrons de la liberté / West Indies: The Fugitive Slaves of Liberty (110 min.). 1986: Sarraounia (120 min., Forum 1987). 1994: Lumière noire / Black Light (104 min.). 1998: Watani, un monde sans mal (78 min.). 2004: Fatima, l’Algérienne de Dakar / Fatima, the Algerian Woman of Dakar (89 min.).

Bonus Material

Essay and Interview

  • Still from the film "West Indies" by Med Hondo. We see a group of people in colourful dress hoisting a flaming effigy.


    In “Remember Med Hondo” Maryse Condé recalls the years they spent together as young militants.

  • Still from the film "West Indies" by Med Hondo. We see a man with a goatee on a throne wearing a red crown and smiling.


    An archival interview with Med Hondo by singer, actress, and artist Moune de Rivel during the production of WEST INDIES.

Forum Special 2022

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