Sarraounia (film)

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Directed by Med Hondo
Produced by Med Hondo
Written by Med Hondo
Abdoulaye Mamani
Starring Aï Keïta
Music by Pierre Akendengué
Abdoulaye Cissé
Issouf Compaore
Cinematography Guy Famechon
Edited by Marie-Thérèse Boiché
Release date
November 26, 1986 (1986-11-26) (France)
Running time
120 minutes
Country Burkina Faso
Language Dioula, Fula, French
Budget $3,000,000

Sarraounia is a 1986 historical drama film written and directed by Med Hondo. It is based on a novel of the same name by Nigerien author Abdoulaye Mamani,[1] who co-wrote the screenplay. The novel and film concern the real-life Battle of Lougou between Azna (remnant animist-Hausa people) queen Sarraounia and the advancing French Colonial Forces of the Voulet-Chanoine Mission in 1899.[1] Sarraounia was one of the few African tribal leaders that resisted the advances of French expansionists Paul Voulet and Julien Chanoine. The film won the first prize at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) and was critically well received.


The film takes place in Niger and the surrounding region of the Sahel.[2] It begins with the initiation and establishment of a young girl as queen of the Aznas.[1] The young queen, Sarraounia, becomes an accomplished warrior when she defends her tribe from an enemy tribe.[3] Accomplished in archery and herbalism, she is a renowned sorceress.[4] Meanwhile, French colonialists Paul Voulet and Julien Chanoine set out to conquer new lands for the French colonial empire. As they advance across the land they rape women and leave burning villages in their wake.[5]



When Nigerien author Abdoulaye Mamani first published his novel Sarraounia, he gave a copy to his friend Med Hondo who decided to put aside all other projects to adapt it into a film.[6] As well as using the book for reference, Hondo conducted research with Mamani, interviewing older Nigerien people and accessing material in the national archives.[6]

Hondo cast Aï Keïta after witnessing a confrontation between Keïta and a family member. Although he initially had her in mind for a small role in the film, he cast her as Sarraounia following the first casting session.[7] This was her first acting job and she has since performed in films including Les Etrangers (The Foreigners) and SIDA dans la Cite (AIDS in the City), as well as in sitcoms.[8]

The film was shot in 1986 in Burkina Faso.[9] It cost $3,000,000 to make, which was raised over seven years by Burkinabé financiers and Hondo's own production company.[1][9]


The film won the First Prize (Étalon de Yennenga) at the 1987 Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO).[10] Historian Frank Ukadike called it "a landmark of African cinema, the most ambitious for its inventiveness, professionalism and dedication."[1] Writing for The Boston Phoenix, Chris Fujiwara said that the film avoids clichés, calling it a "large-scale epic drama" that is "both ironic and celebratory".[4] Time Out called it "superbly crafted and expansive".[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank (1994). Black African Cinema. University of California Press. pp. 290–294. ISBN 0-520-07748-2. 
  2. ^ Cham, Mbye (2004). "Film and History in Africa: A Critical Survey of Current Trends and Tendencies". In Pfaff, Françoise. Focus on African films. Indiana University Press. pp. 64–66. ISBN 0-253-21668-0. 
  3. ^ a b TR, "Sarraounia Review", Time Out, retrieved 2010-01-01 
  4. ^ a b Fujiwara, Chris (2000-04-27), "African Dream — The films of Med Hondo at the HFA", The Boston Phoenix, retrieved 2010-01-05 
  5. ^ Thackway, Melissa (2003). Africa shoots back: alternative perspectives in Sub-Saharan Francophone. James Currey Publishers. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-85255-576-8. 
  6. ^ a b Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank (2002). "Med Hondo (Mauritania)". Questioning African cinema: Conversations with Filmmakers. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 57–72. ISBN 0-8166-4004-1. 
  7. ^ "Aï Keita-Yara Interview", Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television, 2000, retrieved 2010-01-01 
  8. ^ Quist Arcton, Ofeibea (2001-02-26), "Ai Keita Yara — From Queen to Soothsayer, From Celluloid to Video",, retrieved 2010-01-01 
  9. ^ a b Pfaff, Françoise (1997). "Interview with Med Hondo". In Harrow, Kenneth W. With open eyes: women and African cinema. Rodopi. pp. 151–158. ISBN 90-420-0143-7. 
  10. ^ Diawara, Manthia (1992). African cinema: politics & culture. Indiana University Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-253-20707-X. 

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