Maldoror, farewell!“Seems to greet her, several decades after she had decided to bear this name of revolt, the third song of Lautréamont’s poem. Filmmaker Sarah Maldoror died yesterday, April 13, of the aftermath of Covid-19, her two daughters announced. Born Sarah Ducados in 1929 in Condom (Gers), of a mother from south-west of metropolitan France and a Guadeloupean father, Sarah Maldoror has been the author of around forty films composing a multiple and rebellious work, made of fiction, documentary and poetry, and inaugurated with a combat song: the short film Monangambee, filmed in 1969 in Algiers where she lived then, which evokes the torture by the Portuguese colonial army of a sympathizer of the fight for the liberation of Angola, visited in prison by his companion.

Before becoming a pioneer of pan-African cinema, Sarah Maldoror lived part of her youth in Paris where, passionate about theater and received at the school of the rue Blanche (according to her comrade, the future Ivorian filmmaker Timité Bassori, they are among the first black students to enter), she co-founded in 1956 with the same Bassori, Toto Bissainthe, Ababacar Samb Makharam and Robert Liensol the company Les Griots, which became the first black theater company in France. The Tragedy of King Christophe of Aimé Césaire and the Negroes by Jean Genet (in a staging by Roger Blin) are among the pieces created by the troupe, which Maldoror presides for a time, with the material help and the intellectual support of Alioune Diop, founder in 1947 of the important Parisian anti-colonial review African presence.

One of the first African films made by a woman

In 1961, Sarah Maldoror left France and went to study at VGIK, the Moscow film school, before joining the African decolonization movements (in Algeria, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau) with her companion Mario Pinto de Andrade, met in Paris and co-founder of the Movement for the Liberation of Angola, in exile while the war of independence (1961-1975) against the Portuguese metropolis is raging.

It was in Algiers, where she moved in 1966, that she got her start on the cinematographic front of anti-colonial struggles: assistant on the Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo (1966) and Pan-African Festival of Algiers 1969, documentary by William Klein, she soon makes her first film, followed by a lost film shot in Guinea-Bissau and a first feature film “fiction”, Sambizanga (1972). Filmed in the Republic of Congo, based on an Angolan novel by José Luandino Vieira, adapted by his companion Pinto de Andrade with the French writer Maurice Pons, Sambizanga takes place in 1961 and describes the repression of the Angola Liberation Movement from the point of view of Maria, the wife of a revolutionary activist imprisoned and tortured by the Portuguese army, who sets out to find him across the country. Shot with real actors in the fight then in progress, and one of the first African films directed by a woman from film stories, Sambizanga remains visible and visible today – it can easily be found on the Internet.

Many portraits of artists and writers

Leaving Algeria following a disagreement with the ruling FLN hierarchy (some sources mention that she was imprisoned and then expelled from the country), Sarah Maldoror moved to France, in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint -Denis), and continues to make films. His work includes documentaries (filmed in Seine-Saint-Denis, Martinique, Guyana or Cape Verde for Fogo, the island of fire in 1978) and numerous portraits of artists and writers (the poets Léon Gontran-Damas, Aimé Césaire, Assia Djebar, René Depestre or Louis Aragon, singer Toto Bissainthe, musician Archie Shepp). Visible on the site of the CNRS video library, a short film from 1974, And the dogs were silent, filmed in the reserves of the Museum of the man devoted to the objects of black Africa, adapts extracts from the play of the same name of Aimé Césaire, with the actor Gabriel Glissant (seen in Sun O of the great Med Hondo) and the filmmaker herself in the role of the revolutionary’s mother, dressed in an ironic white scientist’s coat. But if there is a science of revolt, Sarah Madoror will have written, turned, played and acted on some of the biggest pages. You can hear it twice more than once, everywhere behind the scenes at the Museum of Man, the sound of fire.

Luc Chessel


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