News · 04 | 03 | 2019
This is no laughing matter, and yet that's exactly how Soleil O began, with a powerful, sadistic, disruptive laugh. It was the stern, angry laugh of Med Hondo, one of the greatest auteurs of African cinema. Mohamed Abi Hondo passed away yesterday, aged 82, in Paris. Mauritanian by birth, he was born in Ain Our Beri Mathar and then, for 62 years, after he turned 20, he was a citizen of the City of Lights. As a man, as a citizen, as an author, as a filmmaker he spent his entire life satisfying a specific urge: to tell the story of his people. A migrant people, a people that had been colonized. Few have recounted colonial violence and migration suffering the way Med Hondo did. As a young, brave migrant, beyond the Mediterranean, he began his journey in 1966 when he founded the small Shango theater company. For five years, with a shoestring budget (30,000 dollars) and in between small theater jobs, he worked on Soleil O, his scream of pain that took its title from a marching slave chant. The first stage on which it played was Locarno. It was 1970, and the Piazza Grande was taken over by that powerful, sadistic, disruptive laugh. That laugh won the Pardo d'oro, and it didn't die. It still echoes today, in everyone's ears.