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Celebrated French-Mauritanian Filmmaker Med Hondo Has Passed Away

A founding father and trailblazer of African cinema died over the weekend in Paris at 82 years old.

Med Hondo, the award-winning French-Mauritanian actor and filmmaker known for his film Soleil O, passed away Saturday morning in Paris, IndieWire reports.

Born Abid Mohamed Medoun Hondo in Mauritania in 1936, his work contributed to the discourse of the continent's representation on the big screen—delving into the discrimination African migrants have faced in France, the tension colonialism has left between Africa and Europe and more.


He kickstarted his career as a stage actor after moving to France in the late 1950s and created Shango, an all-black troupe that toured France, performing plays written by known playwrights Aimé Césaire of Martinique and New Jersey's own Amiri Baraka. Hondo was also featured in French TV shows in the 1960s through the start of the 1970s.

Med Hondo (1995) by Gérard Courant - Cinématon #1780 youtu.be

Soleil O was Hondo's 1967 feature debut that received critical acclaim at Cannes as an inclusion in the festival's International Critics' Week in 1970. The black-and-white film tells the story of an African migrant worker who deals with a mental breakdown after facing racism in France. The film was Hondo's critique of the role France played during the colonial era on the continent.

Hondo was known to be the voiceover for the likes of Eddie Murphy and Morgan Freeman for the French release of their respective films later in his career. He produced Fatima, l'Algérienne de Dakar—his last film set in post-Algeria's battle for independence that follows a young woman's journey to track down the Senegalese army officer who raped and got her pregnant—in 2004.

IndieWire adds that Soleil O will be one of the four African films to be restored and re-released by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation for the African Film Heritage Project—an initiative in partnership with the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers.

The pioneer of African cinema was 82 years old.

Read his full obituary from IndieWire here.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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