Biography of Med HONDOMauritania > Arts : Med HONDO
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Biography :Med Hondo.
Born in 1936 in Mauritania.
He is a movie director, an author, a screenwriter and distributor of his films.He has made and produced a dozen of short, medium or full length films or documentaries and has created his own production company called"Soleil O"
Med Hondo was born in Attar , Mauritania in 1936.50 years have passed since young Med Hondo was a student in the International Hotel School of Rabat, Morocco, where he learned his first job: Cooking.
Coming from a traditional nomadic culture where families, regarding marriages, Wars or dry seasons moved to Mali , Morocco , Sahara , Algeria and Senegal .
50 years of looking and making his opinion on countries and cultures.
50 years of making his own political consciousness.
His Arrival in France
Arriving in Marseille in 1959, he noticed a growing racism towards foreigners coming from Africa .
But where does his will to communicate and give his critical look on societies come from?
•Perhaps from his paternal grandfather, a story teller and coran verses orator known for his brightness.
•Maybe from young adults readings made of Political books, words of storytellers and poets like Birago Diop, Kateb Yacine, or made of works and tests from writers like Frantz Fanon, Aime Césaire, or Cheik Anta Diop.
•Certainly from a statement: "... On movie screens or in theaters, our Mother Land Africa, myself, Black people, a whole continent was missing. I did not understand why I wasn't part of this History. It was necessary for me to fill this void ".
His Arrival in Paris
Arriving in Paris , Med Hondo did part time jobs and registered for theatre classes. In the same time, he kept learning & reading books from Louis Jouvet and Stanislavski.
His meeting with great actress Francoise Rosay was a real bless.After his working hours he used to improve his arts with her: "she took me as his kid, understood and helped me a lot".
Then he started to act in classic plays: Shakespeare, Molière, Racine….
And time came when he thought African authors or actors must be represented.
He first created the company SHANGO and then GRIOTSHANGO in 1966 with Robert Liensol from Guadeloupe . He produced Rene Depestre, Aimé Césaire, Daniel Boukman then, in 1969, a piece from Guy Menga called “Oracle”. This was played in Paris by African and West Indian comedians.
Thinking of his arts as a testimony and tribute to black history, he decided to turn to the Movie industry.
He dedicates his life to multiculturalism: “I'm not here by chance… My uncle died to set this country free, and I'm home in France , living and working here the same way French people are living & working in Africa .”
He has been giving his critical opinion for years, denouncing the split between sub-saharian & North African people, as well as slavery, colonialism and its consequences, racism & extremisms wherever it takes place, social violence going from unemployment to exclusion, and global injustice.
He knows he has the choice to use different weapons to be heard and he resorts to use his voice!
All over Africa any of his movies releasing is a big event. He explains it this way: “this success is due to African people themselves. Their need to see themselves, listen to their native languages, watch movies they can relate to…”
Nevertheless he still regrets a lack of distribution, production or broadcasting structures together with a kind of unity and sharing between African directors; everything able to help African Movie Industry cross over borders and reach an International level.
If he cannot stay quiet it is also because he is convinced that motion pictures and images are part of communication and culture. And this is also a way to educate people.
Actually, it is one of the ways he found to work towards Man's development.
However making criticizing films is not that easy.
Censorship around Movie Industry dictionary, written in 1998 by Dominique Douin, recalls the big pressure put on the screenwriter Med Hondo to “take his voice down”.
After making West Indies: Marroons of freedom , Sarraouina, and Black Light, the film Watani: a world without evil , also found itself up against a censorship process in France .
In the first place, the work is rated for a young audience because of a “so called” violence. The director answers he has just described social facts and reality, away from anything bloody we all can watch everyday on TV screens.
He said: “I made this movie for specific viewers and they've been deprived of it.”
He decided once to show this movie in a French high school, mostly attended by immigrants' children. This film projection was followed by a chat with those kids. In his comments, the high school headmaster confirmed the movie was a real success according to students.
Thanks to African lobbies and after long time talks and meetings with movie academy members and politics, they finally agreed to grant a visa without restriction.
But it was too late. Med Hondo had no longer, at that time, enough money to make new investments for another communication campaign and find theaters. He said remembering this time: "they had succeeded in breaking my knees. Despite everything, I stepped up again and continued carry out films because I did not want to let them get the best of me.”
Besides, most of Med Hondo's movies have indeed face censorship for doubtful reasons but he keeps on trying to use his words and camera lenses as political weapons to show honor and dignity.
He practices his career as a screenwriter with a great curiosity and contributes his share to the movie field playing roles for other directors like John Huston, Costa Gavras, Robert Enrico, Ken Mac Mullen, Pascal Légitimus... (See film catalogue).
And finally there goes Med Hondo's voice …. THE VOICE! This voice reveals a real sense of humour compared with the depth of his opinions. He's the French voice of Eddy Murphy in quite all of his movies; he's speaking for Mohamed Ali in the serie called “freedom roads”. He's also dubbing main characters in the western serie called “O utlaws” , in the motion pictures “ Roots” or “ Gandhi” (Ben Kingsley) and even actors like Sidney Poitier, Danny Glover as well as Morgan Freeman.
He also gives his voice for animated pictures in films like Shrek , Lion King , Nemo and so on. (See film catalog)
Med Hondo is a great and major character for African movie industry. He has always acted for social reality theme movies as he is aware of living: “an African reality! When I make films about Immigrants, I wonder why they are there, questioning myself about their origin, the reasons for racism... I am neither American nor French. I do not make films about Joan of Arc because that is not really part of my history. Living in France for economic and political reasons, I have to take advantage of it to show daily life in Africa to overseas people.”
Nowadays it's hard to find African movie directors. Most of them are just struggling to get public financial help. Among the few conscious, a lot have turned their back to “African pride” theme saying it's too much work and trouble for no success!
Hondo words: “I'm really mad at us! How come we did speak so loud if our anger was so weak? It's unuseful not to write, not to suggest anything when seeing French movie directors marching for human rights or protesting against WTO (world trade organisation).”
Med Hondo fights so that African countries should work toward infrastructure development and tries to help for a strong movie industry organization in Africa .
He also fights against unlimited power of movie distributors and speak for dignity and self expression to avoid TV and cinema market monopoly position.
In his opinion, governments have to:
- write laws defining cultural policies applicable to audiovisual field
- create National production protection guarantees
- set up projection quotas
- favor co-productions with real goals and accurate objectives
- Protect movie directors, artists and producers' rights concerning their own works use and diffusion.
Med Hondo questions himself, trying to give answers through films. He'd like to bring people share experiences and think as one.
He writes and testifies by the image so that the world and the citizens who crowd it can take part of their own destinies.
Last update : 06/24/2007Update this page