Words of Negroes
Dir. Sylvain Dampierre - 80min - 2020 - France, Guadeloupe
In Marie Galante, a tiny island off the banks of Guadeloupe, in the french West Indies, the past speaks up. The island is still covered with sugar cane fields. The cane still shapes the destiny of men and sugar is still made out of their sweat in the groaning and roaring of machines.
They are workers and planters and devote their strength to the survival of their old sugar factory : Grand Anse. It’s a cathedral of rusty iron living on borrowed time for 30 years, whose old cast iron boiler is out of breath. Here the past resurfaces, in the timeless landscapes, the anachronistic shape of the factory, the unchanged gestures of the labour, the endurance that it requires.
I bring back to the workers of the factory a part of their heritage: the transcription of the words pronounced by slaves at the trial of their master in 1842. They seize and embody these words of Negroes, thus giving back to life a memory that still forges their present.
And soon, reconnected to a collective identity, they raise their own voices. The cane has been the instrument of their forefather’s damnation, and remains, against all odds, the instrument of their dignity.