Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Abdoulaye Mamani. Scen.: Med Hondo. F.: Guy Famechon. M.: Marie-Thérèse Boiché. Scgf.: Jacques D’Ovidio. Mus.: Pierre Akendengue, Abdoulaye Cissé, Issouf Campaore. Int.: Aï Keïta (Sarraounia), Jean-Roger Milo (capitano Voulet), Féodor Atkine (Chanoine), Didier Sauvegrain (dottor Henric), Roger Miremont (tenente Joalland), Luc-Antoine Diquéro (tenente Pallier), Jean-Pierre Castaldi (sergente Boutel). Prod.: Les Films Soleil Ô. 35mm. D.: 120’.
I wanted to illustrate authentic historical facts to show that the African continent was not easily colonized and had a history of resistance to colonialism. There were a number of African women involved in the fight against colonialism: Queen Sarraounia in Niger, Jinga in Angola, Ranavalona in Madagascar, Beatrice of the Congo, to name a few. We never speak of the role of African women in history, but they headed kingdoms and had an important status in matriarchal societies. Sarraounia was shot in 1986 in Burkina Faso. Soldiers from the Burkinabè army and other local people served as extras. Some scenes required up to 400 soldiers and as many as 2,000 paid extras. […] The film premiered in Paris, but its initial distribution was sabotaged. The distributor did not respect our contract. Some people say that political pressures were exerted on the distributor, but I have no concrete proof of this. The whole thing was so scandalous that a number of filmmakers signed a petition to protest – Bertrand Tavernier, Constantin Costa-Gavras, Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé.
Med Hondo, interview with Françoise Pfaff, in With Open Eyes: Women and African Cinema, edited by Kenneth W. Harrow, Editions Rodopi, Amsterdam-Atlanta 1997
Shot in glorious widescreen with luxuriant colours and featuring large-scale, exquisitely staged battle scenes, Hondo’s adaptation of the eponymous novel by Abdoulaye Mamani transforms a little-known historical incident into an epic poem of African resistance against colonialism. In 1898, the Voulet-Chanoine military expedition – soon to become infamous for its brutality towards the African population – sets out from Senegal in a bid to conquer Chad and thereby unify all French holdings on the continent. En route to the Chad Basin, the expedition encounters Queen Sarraounia, a brilliant military strategist and leader of the Aznas, who rallies her people for a valiant resistance against the invaders. Winner of the top prize at Fespaco, Hondo’s magnificent and inspirational epic is a model for transforming history into cinema.