Sucre amer

By Christian Lara (Guadeloupe)

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The historic fiction Sucre amer is a dense and fascinating film whose aim leaps right out of the screen: i.e. to restitute West Indian memory in the light of its erasure by mainland France, and, even more so, to reveal that a better understanding of the History of Guadeloupe leads to a better understanding of the History of France! The film thus aims to illustrate and to analyze. To achieve this overtly pedagogical end, Lara starts off with the life of Ignace (played by the consistently excellent Jean-Michel Martial), the freed slave who became a commander in the French army, and who was accused of high treason for fighting Bonapart’s army when the latter re-established slavery after it had been abolished by the Convention. Broadly speaking, the film is a remake of Lara’s Vivre libre ou mourir, shot on a low budget in 1980, which he was never really very happy with. Here, he uses the same process, alternating the historic reconstitution scenes with the sessions of a fictitious contemporary court, called the Court of History, which (in true American style) puts France’s overseas colonization on trial. He also adds a third facet, namely the deliberation of the jury, who, for the most part, are (costumed) characters taken from the History of Guadeloupe. The film’s division between the three sites, and the place accorded to dialogue in the deliberations make the film complex but not muddled, as one question emerges clearly: did Ignace really betray the country? When all is said and done, is it right to revolt against racism and intolerance? The witnesses at the trial come from all periods of History. We can guess their answer.

THE Fespaco Paul Robinson Diaspora Prize///Article N° : 5389

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