Retrospective / Special Guest: Sarah Maldoror

Retrospectiva / Invitada Especial: Sarah Maldoror

Sarah Maldoror, Négritude poet and filmmaker

This first retrospective dedicated to Sarah Maldoror (France, 1929) rediscovers the work of this crucial filmmaker who, despite her enormous involvement in the decolonialization movement and struggles for social diversity since 1960, remains widely unknown. Born Sarah Ducados to an Antillean father and French mother, she took the stage name of Maldoror in honor of The Songs of Maldoror by Lautréaumont, a poet admired by surrealist artists. This gesture was meant to revitalize surrealism from the postulates of Négritude, the artistic, social and political movement for which this filmmaker would become a great exponent. Sarah Maldoror's work seeks to find a poetic way of expressing an alternative identity and the promise of a future society offered by the new black culture emerging from anticolonialism and pan-Africanism during the 1960s.

Sarah Maldoror's origins are in the theater. In the late 1950s, she founded and presided over Les Griots ("The Troubadours"), the first drama company in France composed solely of African and Afro-Caribbean actors, who would work along with Jean Genet to create the play Les negres under the direction of Roger Blain. This theatrical dimension, understood through its oral and performative qualities, would be critical to the way she would conceive of her filmmaking. In 1961, Maldoror traveled to Moscow to study film, where she met the great Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène and learned a dynamic and syncopated editing style that would blend with the rhythms of jazz and black music. After her time in the Soviet Union, Maldoror joined the struggle of African emancipation movements, her films accompanying the essays by Amílcar and Luis Cabral and those by Joaquim and Mario de Andrade. Denouncing the colonialist system was prevalent in her best-known films, such as Monangambée, Sambizanga and La battaglia di Algeri, a film on which she was assistant director to Gillo Pontecorvo. Shot in Algeria and the Congo at the height of the anti-colonial revolts, these films denounce the repression of the people and the use of torture against the guerrillas, intermingled with the filmmaker's characteristic anti-racist and feminist vision of emancipation. Her work is starkly political, although it is so far from being propaganda that the Algerian revolutionary government itself seized her first feature film Des fusils pour Banta, still missing today, after considering it too ambiguous. The exciting promise of a society without Western tutelage would become a theme running through a new line of work, which explores African identity through its festivities and carnivals, made in collaboration with William Klein in the huge fresco of the Festival panafricain d'Alger, which features the carnivals of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. Following this combative period, Maldoror would take an approach to Négritude as a poetic of difference.

A cultural movement founded by poets Aimé Cesaire (Martinique, 1913-2018), Leopold Senghor (Senegal, 1906-2001) and Leon G. Damas (France, 1912-1978), based on Pan-Africanism, on anticolonialism and the synthesis between Marxism and Surrealism, Négritude would be a determining influence on Sarah Maldoror. So much so that we might define her film as a translation of these three poets' writings into images and sounds. The idea of a relation-based identity, the presence of orality and the poetic word and the sonority of music with a frenetic rhythm will give rise to a kind of film understood to be a visual manifesto of Négritude. This is the case in the film portraits she made of the founders of the movement and of black women artists, as well as in the popular and anti-racist kind of fiction film she made for French television, including such films as Un dessert pour Constance and Scala Milan A.C., in which she humorously breaks down cultural and national stereotypes.

Chema González
Head of Cultural Activities at the Reina Sofía Museum


Organized by: Museo Reina Sofía y DocumentaMadrid 2019 (16º Festival Internacional de Cine Documental)

Curator: Chema González

With the support from:
Institut français d´Espagne

Embajada de Argelia en España, Cinemateca de Argelia, Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères, Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC) y CNRS Images.



Session 1. Wretched of the Earth I: The Anti-Colonial Revolt 
Saturday, 11 May 2019 - 7pm. Cineteca, Sala Azcona 
Sarah Maldoror / 17’ / 1969 / Angola, Algeria
Sarah Maldoror / 102’ / 1972 – 1973 / Angola
Introduced by Sarah Maldoror

Session 2. Wretched of the Earth II: The Anti-Colonial Revolt 
Sunday, 12 May 2019 - 7pm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Sabatini Building, Auditorium
La battaglia di Algeri
Gillo Pontecorvo / 121’ / 1965 / Italy, Algeria (assistant director: Sarah Maldoror) 
Introduced by Annouchka de Andrade and Olivier Hadouchi 

Session 3. Wretched of the Earth III: The Anti-Colonial Revolt 
Monday, 13 May 2019 - 7pm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Préface à des fusils pour Banta 
Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc / 28’ / 2011 / French Guiana
Round-table discussion between Annouchka de Andrade, Olivier Hadouchi and Mathieu Klebeye Abonnenc, moderated by Chema González

Session 4. Earth and Carnival I
Tuesday, 14 May 2019 - 9:30pm. Cineteca, Sala Borau 
Festival panafricain d’Alger 
William Klein / 90’ / 1970 / France, Algerie, Germany (assistant director: Sarah Maldoror) 

Session 5. Earth and Carnival II
Wednesday, 15 May 2019 - 7pm. Cineteca, Sala Borau 
A Bissau, le carnaval 
Sarah Maldoror / 18’ / 1980 / Guinea-Bissau
Fogo, l´ile de feu 
Sarah Maldoror / 32’ / 1979 / Cape Verde 
Un carnaval dans le Sahel 
Sarah Maldoror / 15’ / 1979 / Cape Verde

Session 6. Poetry: Aimé Cesaire
Thursday, 16 May 2019 - 7pm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Et les chiens se taiseient, d'Aimé Césaire 
Sarah Maldoror / 13’ / 1978 / France
Aimé Césaire au bout du petit matin 
Sarah Maldoror / 57’ / 1977 / France

Session 7. Poetry: Two Worlds, Two Poets 
Friday, 17 May 2019 - 7pm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Sabatini Building, Auditorium 
Louis Aragon, un masque à Paris 
Sarah Maldoror / 20’ / 1978 / France
Léon G. Damas 
Sarah Maldoror / 26’ / 1994 / France

Session 8. The Women 
Saturday, 18 May 2019 - 7pm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Sabatini Building, Auditorium 
Ahmed Lallem / 22’ / 1966 / Algeria, France (assistant director: Sarah Maldoror)
Toto Bissainthe 
Sarah Maldoror / 4’ / 1984 / Haiti
Ana Mercedes Hoyos 
Sarah Maldoror / 13’ / 2009 / France, Colombia

Session 9. Parisian Jazz: Popular Anti-Racist Film
Sunday, 19 May 2019 - 7pm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Sabatini Building, Auditorium 
Un dessert pour Constance 
Sarah Maldoror / 60’ / 1980 / France
Scala Milan A.C. 
Sarah Maldoror / 18’ / 2003 / France
Les oiseaux mains 
Sarah Maldoror / 1’ / 2005 / France


Programmeof Retrospective / Special Guest: Sarah Maldoror

Showing 1 - 18 of 18
Carnival in Bissau
18 1980
Sarah Maldoror
Aimé Césaire at the End of Daybreak
57 1977
Sarah Maldoror
13 2009
Sarah Maldoror
The Women
22 1966
Ahmed Lallem
And the Dogs Were Quiet, by Aimé Césaire
13 1978
Sarah Maldoror
Pan-African Festival of Algiers
90 1970
William Klein
Fogo, Fire Island
32 1979
Sarah Maldoror
The Battle of Algiers
121 1965
Gillo Pontecorvo
26 1994
Sarah Maldoror
The Bird Hands
1 2005
Sarah Maldoror
Louis Aragon, a Mask in Paris
20 1978
Sarah Maldoror
17 1969
Sarah Maldoror
Foreword to Guns for Banta
28 2011
Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnec
102 1973
Sarah Maldoror
18 2003
Sarah Maldoror
4 1984
Sarah Maldoror
Carnival in the Sahel
15 1979
Sarah Maldoror
A dessert for Constance
60 1980
Sarah Maldoror