Sog.: Daniel Boukman. Scen.: Med Hondo. F.: François Catonné. M.: Youcef Tobni. Scgf.: Jackques Saulnier. Mus.: Georges Rabol, Frank Valmont. Int.: Cyril Aventurin (il padre di famiglia), Fernard Berset (l’albergatore), Roland Bertin (la ‘Morte’), Gérard Bloncourt (signor De la Pierre), Toto Bissainthe (sorella Marie Joseph de Cluny), Philippe Clévenot (l’abate), Georges Hilarion (signor Belleville), Robert Liensol (il parlamentare). Prod.: Les Films Soleil Ô. 35mm. D.: 115’. Col.
One of Hondo’s enduring masterpieces, West Indies is a stunning widescreen musical that takes place entirely on a single set – a giant slave ship that symbolizes the triangular relationship between Africa, Europe and the Caribbean – as it explores the parallels between the forced migration of the Atlantic slave trade and the contemporary migration of Afro-Caribbean subjects to former colonial metropoles. In a breathtaking display of virtuosity, Hondo deftly uses an array of filmic techniques (a vertically oriented mise en scène, dexterous tracking shots, beautifully orchestrated long takes) to explore four centuries of history within his single location, signalling temporal shifts through fluid camera movements and sumptuous staging; meanwhile, the remarkable range of musical styles, witty, poignant, and rousing lyrics, and brilliant choreography dazzle the senses and invite the spectator to join in the struggle to transform the world.
Said Hondo: “I wanted to free the very concept of musical comedy from its American trade mark. I wanted to show that each people on earth has its own musical comedy, its own musical tragedy and its own thought shaped through its own history”.
For too long a time African cinema has been considered as a destitute cinema, a cinema of approximations where techniques did not match ideas. West Indies presents itself quite differently: it uses the contribution of both technical and financial means. Its visual sumptuousness is not gratuitous. It proves that a militant film can be beautiful and reach viewers by other means than dry political argumentation. Indeed West Indies is no more a West Indian film than an African film. It is a film which summons all people whose past is marked by oppression, whose present results from aborted promises and whose future is left to be conquered.
Maryse Condé, “Demain l’Afrique”, August 27, 1979