In his 1979 essay ‘What Is the Cinema for Us?’ the great Mauritian filmmaker Med Hondo argued for the importance of films made by and for the African and Arab diasporas habitually excluded by the mainstream, and how they might be freed from the monopolies of American and European filmmaking to grow into a thriving independent national cinema.
“Throughout the world,” he wrote, “when people use the term cinema, they all refer more or less consciously to a single cinema, which for more than half a century has been created, produced, industrialised, programmed and then shown on the world’s screens: Euro-American cinema.”
This desire for cinematic liberation was an abiding concern throughout Hondo’s career, notably in his experimental and provocative film Les Bicots-Nègres vos voisins (1974). In the same year that he wrote this essay, Hondo made his most audacious attempt to beat Hollywood at its own game with his extraordinary musical West Indies. “I wanted to free the very concept of musical comedy from its American trade mark,” he said. “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.”
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