Words of Negroes

Paroles de nègres

  • Sylvaine Dampierre
  • France, Guadeloupe
  • 2020
  • 80 min
  • Dutch Premiere
  • Focus: unConscious Bias

In 1842, the enslaved man Sébastien died in a cell on the island of Marie-Galante in Guadeloupe, following months of neglect. The slaveholder running the sugar plantation where Sébastien worked had suspected him of poisoning the cattle. His death led to the trial of the slaveholder, who was acquitted.

Around 175 years after these events, filmmaker Sylvaine Dampierre gets workers at the modern Grande Anse sugar factory on Marie-Galante to read out the testimonies from this court case. Much has changed, but uncomfortable parallels with the 19th century continue to this day. The work is hard and poorly paid, and prospects are uncertain—the workers can be easily replaced. 

Dampierre subtly intertwines contemporary globalization with abuses stretching back centuries. “We were those slaves!” exclaims one of the workers in surprise after reading the testimonies. Dampierre’s portrait shows how the factory and its workers are fated to interdependence; local people attending a church service ask God to ensure the sugar processing continues.

Credits

  • 80 min
  • color
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: French, Creole
  • Subtitles in: English
Director
Sylvaine Dampierre
Production
Sophie Salbot for Athenaise
Co-production
Varan Caraibe, Micro Climat, PROARTI
Cinematography
Renaud Personnaz
Editing
Sophie Reiter

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