West Indies ou les nègres marrons de la Liberté

West Indies
It’s winter in France, the light is dull, the camera pans over a snowy wasteland and enters a massive construction of steel and glass that is open at the sides, stopping in front of the reproduction of a wooden ship. The structure that juts out over the upper deck is inscribed with the words ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’.
Med Hondo uses this tracking shot to establish the setting of his feature film West Indies ou les nègres marrons de la liberté (1979), while opening up a much larger space to the imagination at the same time. The ship turns out to be a most versatile stage for a grotesque narrative of colonialism, slavery and the struggle for independence in the French West Indies. Med Hondo explores his many themes in this limited space, whether it be the Middle Passage, marronage, abolition or the history of labour migration to France. The film marries an aesthetics of thrift with the flamboyance of a musical; different time periods glide into one other as elegantly as the geographical points of reference; and only occasionally do the actors’ visible exhalations, an alienation effect created by the cold, remind us that West Indies was not shot on Martinique.
by Med Hondo
with Robert Liensol, Hélène Vincent, Toto Bissainthe, Cyril Aventurin, Gabriel Glissant, Elsie Haas, Theo Légetimus, Philippe Clévenot, Fernand Bersert, Josy Mass
France / Algeria / Mauritania 1979 French 115’ Colour


  • Robert Liensol
  • Hélène Vincent
  • Toto Bissainthe
  • Cyril Aventurin
  • Gabriel Glissant
  • Elsie Haas
  • Theo Légetimus
  • Philippe Clévenot
  • Fernand Bersert
  • Josy Mass


Director Med Hondo
Screenplay Med Hondo after the theatre play "Les négriers" de Daniel Boukman
Cinematography François Catonné
Editing Youcef Tobni
Music Georges Rabol, Frank Valmont
Sound Antoine Bonfanti
Costumes Michèle Feuilleux, Ghyslain Martin, Michèle Cerf, Marie-Dominique Gerbet
Make-Up Josiane Deschamps, Fatiha Rahou, Julie Cerf
Choreography Linda Dingwall
Assistant Directors Jean Leon, Philippe Dupuis Mendel, Abdul War
Production Manager Christine Gozlan
Producer Med Hondo
Co-Production O.N.C.M. (Office National de Cinema Mauritanien) Nouakchott, Mauretanien
R.T.A. (Radio Télévision Algérienne)
I.P.C. (Société Interafricaine de Production Cinématographique)
Yanek Films

Produced by

Les Films Soleil Ô

Med Hondo

Born in 1936 in Atar, Mauritania. He emigrated to France in the late 1950s, where he founded a theatre group in Paris and turned towards film. His first feature-length work Soleil Ô (Berlinale Forum 1971), attracted international attention. His films address the history of the African continent and its diaspora. He died in Paris in 2019.


1969 Balade aux sources (Ballad to the Springs); 25 min. · Partout ou peut-être nulle part (Everywhere, or Maybe Nowhere); 30 min. 1970 Soleil Ô (Oh, Sun); 108 min. 1971 Mes voisins (My Neighbours); 35 min. 1973 Les Bicots-nègres, vos voisins (Arabs and Niggers, Your Neighbours); 190 min. 1977 Nous aurons toute la mort pour dormer; 160 min. 1979 West Indies, ou les nègres marrons de la liberté (West Indies: The Fugitive Slaves of Liberty); 110 min. 1986 Sarraounia; 120 min., Forum 1987 1994 Lumière noire (Black Light); 104 min. 1998 Watani, un monde sans mal; 78 min. 2004 Fatima, l’Algérienne de Dakar (Fatima, the Algerian Woman of Dakar); 89 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2022