Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 10:45

Afrique sur Seine/SOLEIL Ô

Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, Mamadou Sarr/Med Hondo
Introduced by

il regista Med Hondo, Margaret Bodde (The Film Foundation) e Cecilia Cenciarelli


Sunday 25/06/2017


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Afrique sur Seine is our prologue. Because it allows us to remember, thirty years after his death, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, the first African graduate of Sadoul and Mitry’s IDHEC, a film history pioneer and enlightened documentarist.

Because it was the first film by a Sub-Saharan director that explores the diaspora and ‘African presence’ in Paris, a decade before Sembène and Hondo brought the damnation of the French Riviera and the alienation of the French capital to the screen.

Because Afrique sur Seine, this ‘small inverted ethnographic essay film’, was the first to have prodded African cinema into more difficult and contentious terrain. As Manthia Diawara reminds us, it was a time when the French government directly implemented for the first time the Laval Decree, which had been issued in 1934 to prevent the creation of African cinema and stifle perspectives on colonialism. The first film that paid the price was Afrique 50, clandestinely shot in Ivory Coast by René Vautier. Almost at the same time that Vieyra was denied authorization for filming in Senegal, Les Statues meurent aussi was censored. Resnais and Marker’s film fiercely denounced the alteration of African artistic and cultural heritage. “Cinema has enormous responsibilities in our land”, wrote Vieyra, “it is the blackboard for writing the visible signs of our knowledge. The illustrated book of entertainment. The journey that will make us understand the world. It will preserve our arts when its initiates will no longer be an extension of a living museum, it will be our library. Cinema will be our everyday journal”.

Cecilia Cenciarelli

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scgf.: Paulin S. Vieyra, Mamadou Sarr. F.: Robert Caristan. M.: Paulin Soumanou Vieyra. Int.: Paulin S. Vieyra, Mamadou Sarr, Marpessa Dawn, Annette M’Baye. Prod.: Groupe africain de cinéma con il sostegno di Comité du film ethnographique du Musée de l’Homme. DCP. D.: 20’. Bn. 


Film Notes

The restoration of Soleil Ô was made possible through the use of a 16mm reversal print, and 16mm and 35mm dupe negatives deposited by Med Hondo at Ciné-Archives, the audiovisual archive of the French Communist Party, in Paris. A vintage 35mm print preserved at the Harvard Film Archive was used as a reference. Colour grading was supervised by cinematographer François Catonné.


It was purely by chance that we ended up being artists ‘of colour’, as is the term usually used. In Paris together for basically the same reasons, Bachir, Touré, Robert and I found ourselves right in the middle of a country, a city, where we had to get by, for a lack of better words, where we had to work: being an actor, a musician, a singer. And where we realized immediately the doors were closed […]. As a solution we thought of creating a theater group and, in the meantime, we all made Soleil Ô. In order to make the film we had to overcome every bureaucratic and material obstacles, in other words, find a producer and tell him: “It’s the best story around, because we believe in it”. Like they say: “If you’re good at talking, you’re good at making film”. And so, we made Soleil Ô without money […]. All the scenes were based on reality. Because racism isn’t invented, especially in film. It’s like a kind of cloak put on you, that you’re forced to live with. Even the confession scene, at the beginning: in fact, in the Antilles, where I was born, they taught children that knowing how to speak Creole was a sin to confess. I know that the cinema you called cinéma-vérité has always avoid saying things of the kind. The only thing it has done in this sense is take black faces and mix them in the crowds. To demonstrate that as the West continues to expand itself economically, the more it will need black labor. And so Africa will always be an underdeveloped continent: saying the contrary is a lie […]. The original idea was to show tourist spots packed with blacks only. All of a sudden you would see Sacré-Cœur, and you would see only blacks. It would have had a powerful cinematographic impact. But the idea remained on paper and wasn’t translated into images.

Med Hondo, “Jeune Cinéma”,

June-July 1970


Cast and Credits

Sog., Scgf.: Med Hondo. F.: François Catonné, Jean-Claude Rahaga. M.: Michèle Masnier, Clément Menuet. Mus.: Georges Anderson. Int.: Robert Liensol, Théo Légitimus, Gabriel Glissand, Mabousso Lô, Alfred Anou, Les Black Echos, Ambroise M’Bia, Akonio Dolo. Prod.: Grey Films, Shango Films. DCP. D.: 98’. Bn.