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Colonialism in motion

sun oh
Regissør: Med Hondos
(1970)

AFRICA / The film series Tidløs reise, which is now staged in several of the country's cinematheques, shows films rooted in African culture and history – but also Africa's connection to Europe and China.




(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)

The film series Timeless journey, which is set up at four of the country's cinematekis 12 and 13 September, consists of a bunch of films rooted in Africansk culture and history. In other words, here you have the opportunity to see films from and about a continent that usually does not get much space in Norwegian cinemas. Among the thematic threads throughout the program are colonialism and the situation of African immigrants in Europe in recent decades. Consequently, most of the films – which are of both recent and older release date – also have a connection to our continent.

Disturbing time picture

The series offers the rare opportunity to see French-Mauritanian Med Hondo's feature film debut sun oh (Oh, Sun), which was filmed over four years in the latter half of the sixties. The film's rather loose plot revolves around a nameless African man who struggles to find work and shelter in the French capital, depicted with a combination of documentary and more surreal sequences – as well as both animated and musical elements. sun oh contains several apparently documentary interviews, but these are staged. When, in another scene, the main character walks hand in hand on the Champs-Elysees with a white French woman, to the visible dismay of several passersby, these reactions must in turn be authentic.

Soleil ô is given a palpable touch of playfulness, in addition to the obvious anger and frustration it expresses.

Presumably, the different forms and approaches are partly a consequence of the fact that the film was made for very limited funds over a longer period of time. Nevertheless, this provides sun oh a palpable touch of playfulness, in addition to the obvious anger and frustration it expresses. This is a film that "sizzles with a necessity to be made", says the Cinematek's program introduction very aptly.

sun oh is both a fascinating and disturbing picture of the times, where especially post-colonialist attitudes and African labor migration to France are central. It is considered an important film in African film history and is shown here in a newly restored version. It is operated with slightly different years for when sun oh is originally from (the program description states 1969), but in 1970 it premiered at the Cannes festival, followed by its being awarded the Golden Leopard prize for best film at the Locarno festival.

Character of Godard

Honda sun oh was clearly inspired by the French New Wave from the same time period. Perhaps the foremost representative of this direction, Jean-Luc Godard, leaves its mark on the film program in several ways.

Jean-Luc Godard left his mark on the film program in several ways.

Right from the feature film debut Until the last breath by the turn of the sixties, Godard's films had broken with established narrative conventions. In 1967, however, he came up with two films that were to mark the start of a new and more radical direction for the filmmaker. Like Weekend from this year, is The Chinese more experimental in form and narrative than the films he had made so far – as well as having more explicit political content.

In connection with Timeless Travel, this film – which has not been among the easiest to see from Godard's catalog – is also shown at the Cinemateket in Oslo. The Chinese depicts a group of left-wing radical students in France and thus reflects the political currents that would lead to the May Uprising the following year. The students in the film are played by actors, including Anne Wiazemsky and Jean-Pierre Léaud. At the same time, it is a film that challenges the boundaries between fiction and documentary, where the Maoist student activist Omar Blondin Diop appears in the role of himself and gives a lecture to the students.

A couple of years later, Diop was exiled from France to his native Senegal. Here he continued his political activism, which was then particularly aimed at the country's president Léopold Senghor and France's influence in this part of Africa. In the early seventies, he was arrested and convicted for plotting to free a jailed activist group that included two of his brothers. In 1973, Diop was killed while he himself was in prison.

As part of the film series is shown Just a Movement, Vincent Meessen#'s documentary about Diop from 2021. The film is also a tribute to The Chinese – and is interestingly modeled after Godard's film. Using the form of such an unconventional and experimental film is undeniable Just a Movement something more challenging for the average spectator than it probably could have been. The references to Godard's film, however, primarily add an extra intertextual layer, and it is hardly strictly necessary to have close familiarity with The Chinese to benefit from this portrait film.

Chinese influence

While the title of Godard's film The Chinese refers to Mao and his teaching is also the modern one Chinas interests in and influence on the African continent – ​​which can be considered a quite different form of colonialism – a theme in the film programme. This is dealt with both in Just a Movement and especially in the Angolan documentary film Our Lady of the Chinese Shop, directed by Ery Claver.

Frenchie Alice Diop (presumably no relation to Omar Blondin Diop) made his feature film debut in 2022 with Saint Omer , based on a real-life trial in which a French-Senegalese woman was accused of killing her fifteen-month-old daughter. With its thematization of outsiders and racism in today's France, this film could have fit into the programme, but is possibly left out because it has already been shown in Norwegian cinemas this year. However, Diop first distinguished himself as a documentary filmmaker.

In the film series, it is shown instead on call (Permanence) from 2016, where she filmed consultations for six months at a doctor's office in the Paris district of Bobigny that offers free health services to newly arrived migrants. The consistently observant documentary gives a close insight into the challenges these people face in the face of French society – and thus draws clear threads to Med Hondo's some fifty years older sun oh.

 

The film series Tidløs reise will be shown on 12 and 13 September at the cinematheques in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø with introductions by film scholars. In Tromsø, the viewing period extends from 12 to 14 September. Just a Movement will also be shown at Symra Kino in Oslo on 19 September and at the Arctic Moving Image & Film Festival in Harstad in October. The Chinese will be shown at the Cinematheque in Oslo on 9 and 21 September.

Tidløs reise is curated by Hanan Benammar and Brynjar Bjerkem for TrAP (Transcultural Arts Production).

Aleksander Huser
Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

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