The films of one of Africa’s most acclaimed and innovative directors, as well as one of its founding fathers, Mauritanian filmmaker Mohamed Abid Medoun Hondo (1936 – 2019), widely known as simply Med Hondo, have long been mostly inaccessible to the general public. Except for rare screenings, and illegal uploads to video-sharing platforms like YouTube, Hondo’s pioneering work, in the 1970s especially, remains largely unseen and therefore underappreciated. That’s starting to change.
Hondo’s films belong in the same conversations as the works of recognized African cinema greats like Ousmane Sembène and Djibril Diop Mambéty. So it’s a pleasure to know that three of his most sort after titles — SOLEIL Ô (1970), WEST INDIES: THE FUGITIVE SLAVES OF LIBERTY (1979), and SARRAOUNIA (1986) — are being released in a Blu-ray/DVD box set, restored in 2k and 4k by the French Communist Party Film Archive – Labor History and Audiovisual Preservation.
Hondo’s films on injustice and racism challenged and often shocked audiences upon their release. A radical filmmaker, he used his creativity as a tool to fight injustice, challenging racism in Europe and historic colonialism across Africa, producing work that was in conversation with the pantheon of artists, scholars, and leaders who were also in the Pan-African struggle for emancipation. And he will forever reside alongside the likes of the men who influenced him, including Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and Bertolt Brecht.
SARRAOUNIA evokes resistance to the colonization of Africa in the 19th century; WEST INDIES scathingly critiques the exploitation of Africans, enslaved and trafficked; and SOLEIL Ô tackles the obstacles faced by a young African immigrant in Paris in the 1960s. This box set brings together these three feature films for the first time; although, across the Atlantic, in the United States, a restored SOLEIL Ô (courtesy of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project initiative) is currently streaming on Criterion Channel.
There’s no mention of whether this French-packaged box set is in any way affiliated with the work Scorsese’s foundation is doing in the U.S., and if the set will also be officially released by an American distributor, or become available on a streaming platform. But we’ve inquired and will update this item once a response is received.
It’s worth noting that, according to the French distributor, Paris-based Doriane Films’ CapuSeen website, each disc comes with English subtitles, and international shipping is provided.
The box set (three DVDs or three Blu-rays) — which includes a booklet of essays by Maryse Condé, Aboubakar Sanogo, François Catonné, Françoise Pfaff, and Abdoul War — can be ordered online for 30 euros (about $32) here.
Additionally, the Cinémathèque de Toulouse, in partnership with the French Communist Party Film Archive and Doriane Films, is currently running a retrospective of Hondo’s work in Toulouse, France, through March 23.
More information to come…
In the meantime, here’s a promo for the box set.