WEST INDIES: THE FUGITIVE SLAVES OF LIBERTY
Saturday, June 1
(1979, Med Hondo) The history of the West Indies told as a color musical extravaganza (at $1,350,000, the biggest-budget African production ever), adapted from Les Negriers (The Slavers) by Martiniquan playwright Daniel Boukman. Guadeloupian writer Maryse Condé saw it as proof that “militant cinema can be beautiful and rich.” In French, with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy Harvard Film Archive. Approx. 110 min.
“A revolutionary musical in both senses of the word. This witty, scathing Mauritanian-Algerian co-production offers an angry view of West Indian history, using imaginative staging and a very fluid visual style. The film's single set is an enormous slave ship (built in an unused Citroen factory in Paris—ed.)... Mobile camerawork and frequent narrative shifts take the actors through various vignettes about French colonialists invading the Indies, Caribbean natives lured to Paris, the process by which the islands were first settled and a lot more… Mr. Hondo leads the film through a long series of well-connected tableaux, culminating in an almost joyous call to arms.”
– Janet Maslin, The New York Times