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Representation Of Black Community In The Film Sugar Cane Valley

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Euzhan Palcy’s movie, La Rue cases nègres (Or Sugar Cane Valley), is a revolutionary film which displays a network of black ethnics who are persevering, clever, and family-situated. With Jose as the main protagonist of the movie, this movie turns away from the common generalizations that a favored reading would display in light of the fact that it avoids the implications delivered by presiding ideological systems. Implying that it demonstrates a black community that does not include individuals who are jobless, uneducated, and lacking family esteems. With the likes of Médouze and Léopold, the film has certainly mesmerized the glimpses of every individual spectator through their lively acts implemented within the story either through irony, stories or racism.

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In Sugar Cane Alley, the movie has Médouze narrating to José stories told to him by his own father. As a young individual, Médouze’s father had — among with all the other blacks — fled from the plantations after perceiving the news that slavery was over. However, they soon had found themselves back in the place of working for the whites, for a pitiable wage, because the whites still had ownership of the land. In the film, Médouze’s black Caribbean past lends agency to blacks themselves for their positions in finishing slavery through their rebellions, while also exposing the procedure by which the whites continue to exert dominant power. During one of their casual conversations, the camera remains on José’s delighted utterance at the passion in old Médouze’s voice as he states (in the words or his father): “After Slavery, the master had become the boss. Nothing changed, son. The whites own all the land. The law forbids their beating us, but it doesn’t force them to pay us a decent wage”. The tales (i. e. , as told in the film) end by elaborating how the simple economic relationship in which black labor produced profits for white owners stayed the same after the rise of independence.

The primary purpose of Médouze’s storytelling, however is to emerge a consciousness that challenges the unchangeable and official forms of history, versions that do not admit the role of black resistance to slavery. Médouze’s invocation of anti-slavery rebellion tries to produce a culture of questioning and of resistance. The past of slave rebellions has, as of late, become a very important example in many Caribbean and Latin American nations in the possibility to re-examine the history of Africans in the Americas. Palcy allocates this task to the village elder, Médouze. Within the circumstances of Martinique, Frenchness has always been perceived a path to improved social mobility, with French schooling and fluency in — and use of — the French language being critical to self-improvement. Médouze’s tales imply the foundation for a powerful sense of identity to opposed the inroads placed on the dignity of a young black child by the French educational system and by the Martinican social structure, both of which demolish the African heritage. Palcy’s narrative strategy relies strongly on storytelling, orality and the elided historical consciousness, to display that José’s identity — and Caribbean identity — needs negotiating a path between two cultures, a royal one and a tribal one.

Cultural elements exploited from the African narrative custom, such as the storytelling at wakes, fulfilled with elite’s elevation of the French language, and of French acts and traditions. Against French cultural establishment is juxtaposed the utilization of chants to fend off the evil, work tunes that mock “whitey”, the deceit of charms and the riddles and stories told by Médouze. Léopold’s story merges — with a few modifications — what appears in the movies as dispersed references to problems of ethnic and social stratification. By combining these features into a comprehensible character and subplot, Palcy is able to blossom a story into an exploration of the conflicts of the mulatto experience, favored in Martinican community as compared to blacks. The establishment of this subplot allows Palcy to display the progress of a color-based stratification through short scenes in which both his black mother and his white father punish Léopold for spending time with the black children. His parents’ punishments belittle both blackness and the use of Créole, the primary language spoken by most blacks in 1930s Martinique. Palcy also captures the intricacy and irony of the situation of Honorine, Léopold’s mother, when she proudly plays a new song by Josephine Baker, the black American singer who had attained fame in the prestigious city of Paris. In two bars of a song, Palcy produces a multi-layered anti-colonial allusion with a black female captured between two cultural worlds. Léopold epitomizes the hybrid but troubled nature of Caribbean identity.

The film places a straightforward connection between Leopold’s coming to political awareness and his white father’s refusal. However, it is only after his father’s betrayal that Léopold starts to identify with the oppressed pieces of Martinican society, having up to this point firmly defended the reputation of whites against his little black friends’ judgements about their malicious nature. The character of Léopold — who is seized after he attempts to steal the ledger at his father’s sugar factory in order to unmask the doctored books that refuse the sugarcane workers their deserved wages — also diverges from quintessential mulatto-as-betrayer of blacks, as he himself turns into the one betrayed through the denial of the white father he cherishes. Although recognizing the hybridity of Caribbean identity and culture, Palcy is cautious to reveal the underlying biases against African cultural tradition hidden by the communications of hybridity.

To summarize, La Rue cases nègres (Or Sugar Cane Alley) is a movie which disputes various stereotypes by displaying a black neighbourhood with dedicated, intelligent, and family-oriented individuals. Despite harsh cruelty, brutality, and ethnic hatred by the white individuals, the characters persisted to provide hope and fortitude amongst others. The movie is a good review into the neocolonialism system formats utilized by European colonists to persist to take advantage of low-cost labor and large potential profit margins without regarding it as slavery. It exhibits the ignorance of the whites towards the agony of the black people they so gladly enslaved. Moreover, the presences of the characters Médouze and Léopold aided the movie to display such inequalities between the white and black folk when within a community. For instance, Médouze represented the idea that he was the protector of the popular army, sharing ancestral stories and riddles that he had perceived from his Father a long time ago. Furthermore, Léopold depicted the idea that the white people disassociated and voluntarily connected themselves from the wrongs they were carrying out as long as they saw benefits. Indeed, with the involvement of such characters, Euzhan Palcy evidently brings to life Third World realities found exactly in the middle of what is still entitled as a department of metropolitan France.

18 March 2020

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