Scen.: Med Hondo. F.: Jean Boffety, François Catonné. M.: Michel Masnier. Mus.: Catherine Le Forestier, Mohamed Ou Mustapha, Frank Valmont, Louis Zavier. Int.: Armand Abplanalp, Jean Berger, Claude Debord, Ahmed Hasmaou, Sally N’dongo, Mohamed Ou Mustapha, Jacques Thébault, Bachir Touré, Frank Valmont. Prod.: Les Films du Soleil. 35mm. D.: 100’. Bn.
Arguably an outgrowth of Soleil Ô, Les Bicots-nègres analyses the living conditions of African migrant workers in France in the mid-1970s. The film has the potential to be a classic case study of cinematic over-determination. It comprises seven sequences exploring, respectively, the conditions of possibility of cinematic representation in Africa (the opening sequence), historical dissonance through the dialectic of past and present (the post-credit sequence), a flashback to the eve of African independence (the imaginary garden party sequence), the predicaments of the post-colony, an assessment of the living condition of migrant workers and the actions taken to transform these conditions, and a final sequence in a circular mode, which returns to the new cinema.
In Les Bicots-nègres, Med Hondo engages the dual front of cinema and history through the production of what might be referred to as an indocile image. In the cinema of Med Hondo, the indocile image purports to do, undo and sometimes outdo both cinema and history.
Formally agnostic, it rejects the false choice between documentary and fiction by embracing both in full equanimity. Dissenting from the implicit injunction against the pedagogic in cinema (“if you have a message, send it through Western Union”), it seeks to creatively muster its discreet charm and deploy it productively in an essayistic form, thereby rejecting efforts to marginalise it.
Committed to experimentalism, it displays an anticipatory quality, which paradoxically exposes the tyranny of the new and calls for the destruction of the old. Clear and cogent about its analysis of cinematic and historical dominance, it enrobes itself with the drape of time. Taking the shape of history itself, it makes history as dominance, the history of dominance, and the historical dominance of established modes of filmmaking tremble. It might be argued that some of the avenues it opened four decades ago are yet to be fully exploited or surpassed.