Expat African workers describe everyday life and racism in the job and housing markets in Paris in the 1970s. In this fragment of a larger documentary project (“Les Bicots-nègres, vos voisins” – Arabs and Niggers, Your Neighbours, 1973), Med Hondo explores housing and reception policies for immigrant workers in France. This short film reveals the possibilities for street cinema, similar to direct cinema or even “ciné-tracts”, to discuss the post-colonial state of the world.
Med Hondo was a paradoxical filmmaker and man: bound by his political faith and his history as a French Communist Party activist (the most dogmatic and orthodox in the western world), but at the same time a highly experimental artist in his cinematographic research, he resembled a French-Mauritanian Mayakovsky. His films are wild, unclassifiable, free objects… “My Neighbours” is a combination of direct cinema, “ciné-tracts”, music videos and agitprop animation. This is a fragment of the extraordinary “Les Bicots-nègres, vos voisins” (Arabs and Niggers, Your Neighbours), the saga of the causes of immigration and the situation of immigrants in the explosive form of a mixture of on-the-spot documents and sketches, songs and cartoons. A cinematic cry from the heart!
Cinema historian, independent programmer
Born in Mauritania in 1936, Med Hondo emigrated to France in 1958. First, he set up a theatre troupe before turning to cinema. He worked as a voice actor, dubbing Eddie Murphy and a host of black American actors in the 1980s and 90s, and was also a filmmaker deeply ingrained with Marxist culture. After two short films made during the weekends, he shot his first feature “Soleil Ô”, awarded the Golden Leopard at Locarno in 1970. In it, he describes the disillusionment of an African immigrant arriving in France. Hondo’s work, relatively unknown in France, examines and challenges the relations between African peoples and their former colonisers as well as their emancipation. Among his best-known films are “"Nous aurons toute la mort pour dormer” (1977), about the Polisario Front’s struggle for the independence of Western Sahara, “West Indies, ou les nègres marrons de la liberté” (1979), a musical about the slave trade and Caribbean populations’ enslavement to European culture and “Sarraounia” (selected at the Berlinale in 1987, describing the life of the African queen of the same name who, with her people, resisted the massacres carried out by 19th century colonisers). Med Hondo died in Paris in 2019.