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Soleil Ô

Oh, Sun!
Med Hondo
France, Mauritania 1970

21.02.2020 11:00 Eng. subtitles Akademie der Künste
25.02.2020 20:15 Eng. subtitles Kino Arsenal 1

104 min. French, Arabic.

The very first minutes of Med Hondo’s debut film already impress with a wealth of ideas that made this winner of Locarno’s Golden Leopard award stand out even in the crowded field of political cinema in the early 1970s. Following an animated intro full of black humour, the ways in which colonial powers subjugated the African continent (religion, violence, money) are called to mind in a dreamily absurd sequence. Only then does the actual narrative begin: the story of a young man who arrives in Paris from Africa with high hopes, but soon realises that the society of the colonisers won’t give him a chance – and that he is subject to a racism that can be either brutally direct or issued from behind a liberal mask. This is a film as an internal monologue sprinkled with bits of cinéma vérité, montage learned from Eisenstein, and many moments of sardonic humour that conceal a profound despair. (svr)

Med Hondo was born in Atar, Mauritania in 1936. At the end of the 1950s, he emigrated to France, founding a theatre group in Paris and turning to film. In the mid-1960s he began shooting his first feature film Soleil Ô which attracted international attention. In his subsequent films, Hondo addressed the history of the African continent and its diaspora. In addition to his work as a director, Hondo also worked as a dubbing artist. He died in Paris in 2019.

Vivid SOLEIL Ô: Med Hondo makes dramatic outcry in film debut about blacks in France

(… Mr. Hondo is presenting the sad, frustrating existences of his black brother workers in an alien country through the experiences of one educated, gentle immigrant from Mauritania. While his obvious anger seems biased on occasion, he is meticulous in stressing that white employers and other citizens are fearful of the ever-increasing numbers of black people in France, who were “only a handful” in 1946 and are in the hundreds of thousands now. If he is elliptical in his use of symbolism and a stream-of-consciousness approach, his total portrait, like the film, is stark black-and-white. (…) The anomaly of people adrift is projected through the cold attitude of wary employers (and union leaders), menial jobs, lack of housing and varied forms of racism. Mr. Hondo, it must be underlined, also is unsparing in his view of black officials in their own country who, it says here, are merely giving the expatriates little but official doubletalk. (...)

(The New York Times, March 15, 1973)

Written and directed by Med Hondo. Cinematography François Catonné, Jean-Claude Rahaga. Editing Michèle Masnier, Clément Menuet. Music Georges Anderson. Sound Jean Paul Loublier, Yves Allard, Alain Contreau. Production design Med Hondo. With Robert Liensol, Théo Légitimus, Gabriel Glissand, Greg Germain, Mabousso Lô, Alfred Panou, Ambroise M'Bia, Akonio Dolo, Georges Hilarion, Djibrill, Les Black Echoes, Jean Edmond.

Films

1969: Balade aux sources / Ballad to the Springs (25 min.), Partout ou peut-être nulle part / Everywhere, or Maybe Nowhere (30 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.).