“Who Will Sing Folk Songs?”: The Film Musical in Nine Variations
New Restoration

A vital masterpiece of verve and invention.”

Barry Jenkins, director (Moonlight)

Mauritanian French director Med Hondo’s West Indies: The Fugitive Slaves of Liberty proved a watershed event for African cinema—the continent’s first musical as well as a sui generis amalgam of historical epic, Broadway revue, Brechtian theater, and joyous agitprop. Using an enormous mock slave ship as the film’s only soundstage, Hondo mounts intricately choreographed reenactments and dance numbers across his multipurpose set to investigate more than three centuries of imperialist oppression. The story traverses the West Indies, Europe, and the Middle Passage; jumps across time to depict the effects of official French policy upon the colonized, the enslaved, and their descendants; and surveys the actions and motivations of the resigned, the revolutionary, and the powers that be (along with their lackeys). No mere extravaganza, West Indies is a call to arms for a spectacular yet critical cinematic reimagining of an entire people’s history of resistance and struggle. —Janus Films

In French with English subtitles

One of Med Hondo’s lasting masterpieces … [Tells] four centuries of history through genial tracking shots as well as changes in temporality through camera movement, lush colors, and poignant lyrics and choreographies.”

Aboubakar Sanogo, Harvard Film Archive

One of the great liberatory films … The dance has a specific ethnic and historical rootedness that’s not just decorative or entertainment, but rallying people with their bodies to create a ripple effect of direct action.”

Peter Sellars, theatre and opera director
Media

Upcoming in this Series

  • Hole 2
  • The Hole
  • Taiwan/France1998
  • Tsai Ming-liang
  • 95 35mm
  • NR
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • Une Chambre Un Ville 3
  • Une chambre en ville
  • aka A Room in Town
  • France1982
  • Jacques Demy
  • 93 DCP
  • PG
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • Magical Substance Flows Into Me 1
  • A Magical Substance Flows into Me
  • Palestine/Germany/United Kingdom2016
  • Jumana Manna
  • 66 DCP
  • NR
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • West Indies 1
  • West Indies: The Fugitive Slaves of Liberty
  • West Indies, ou Les nègres marrons de la liberté
  • Algeria/Mauritania/France1979
  • Med Hondo
  • 116 DCP
  • PG
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • Disciple 1
  • The Disciple
  • India2020
  • Chaitanya Tamhane
  • 128 DCP
  • NR
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • Dancer In The Dark 1
  • Dancer in the Dark
  • Denmark/Sweden/France/Iceland2000
  • Lars Von Trier
  • 140 35mm
  • 14A
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • All About Lily Chou Chou 5
  • All About Lily Chou-Chou
  • リリイ・シュシュのすべて
  • Japan2001
  • Iwai Shunji
  • 146 DCP
  • NR
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • Red Psalm 2
  • Red Psalm
  • Még kér a nép
  • Hungary1971
  • Miklós Jancsó
  • 84 DCP
  • NR
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations
  • Golden Eighties 10
  • Golden Eighties
  • Belgium/France/Switzerland1986
  • Chantal Akerman
  • 96 DCP
  • PG
  • The Film Musical in Nine Variations