A taciturn man: as a child, this is the image that filmmaker Erika Etangsalé had of her father Jean-René. Now he tells his story for the first time. For the camera. It is a story of displacement stretching back generations, of the colonization and slavery that took his ancestors to the island of Réunion, and of BUMIDOM, the controversial French government program that plucked Jean-René away from the island at the age of 17.
Jean-René pieces together the fragments of his past from his colorful and sunny surroundings in France, but the island he came from is also a presence in the film, starting from its first moments. These grainy black-and-white shots show volcano peaks and mountainsides draped with wisps of mist—scenes that are detached from time, where the boundaries between myth, dream, and memory are blurred.
While the story that is central to the film is personal, it is also the story of so many other people uprooted by colonization. And by telling it, Jean-René gradually takes ownership of this previously unprocessed history that has nestled in his body like some dull ache passed on from generation to generation.