Soleil Ô / Downpour
Edition no. 1049/1050
A furious cry of resistance against racist oppression, the debut from Mauritanian director Med Hondo is a bitterly funny, stylistically explosive attack on Western capitalism and the lingering legacy of colonialism. Laced with deadly irony and righteous anger, Soleil Ô follows a starry-eyed immigrant (Robert Liensol) as he leaves West Africa and journeys to Paris in search of a job, a community, and intellectual engagement—but soon discovers a hostile society where his very presence engenders fear and resentment. Drawing on the freewheeling experimentation of the French New Wave, Hondo deploys a dizzying array of narrative and stylistic techniques—animation, docudrama, dream sequences, musical numbers, folklore, slapstick comedy, agitprop—to create a revolutionary landmark of political cinema and a shattering vision of awakening black consciousness.
Defined by a brash stylistic exuberance and a vivid way of looking at everyday life in prerevolution Iran, this first feature from the renowned Bahram Beyzaie helped usher in the Iranian New Wave. When he takes a job as a schoolteacher in a new neighborhood, the hapless intellectual Hekmati (Parviz Fannizadeh) finds that he is a fish out of water in a place where everybody’s business—including his tentative flirtation with an engaged seamstress (Parvaneh Massoumi)—is subject to the prying eyes of adults and children alike. Shot in luminous monochrome and edited with quicksilver invention, this touchstone work, which has been painstakingly restored from the only known surviving print, captures with puckish humor and great human tenderness the societal and intellectual conflicts coursing through Iran at a pivotal historical moment.
- New introductions to Soleil Ô and Downpour by World Cinema Project founder Martin Scorsese
- A 2018 interview with Soleil Ô director Med Hondo
- New interview featuring Downpour director Bahram Beyzaie