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The late Mauritanian-French writer-director-producer Med Hondo was a trailblazer in making independent films that featured the lives of African immigrants in Europe and denounced all forms of oppression. His first feature Soleil Ô, self-financed and shot over three years in the aftermath of May 68 with a cast of African and West Indian actors, follows the fortunes of an African immigrant in Paris as he faces racism in the workplace, objectification in the bedroom, and indifference on the part of better-off Africans. Hondo was inspired to make the film by a deadly fire in a migrant shelter outside Paris. He stated: “I needed
to give [the victims] a voice, bodies, to show who these people were and how they lived, sometimes in inhuman conditions, in the shadow of neo-colonialism. […] I had a fierce desire to be a witness to my
time and to proclaim my existence as an African.” Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Soleil Ô is that while it pulls no punches in delivering its withering verdict on the effects of colonial history, it is
anything but dour: acerbically funny, deliriously theatrical, and vibrantly inventive in its formal conceits, this is a work of resistance lifted by the joy of artistic expression.