Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Documentary explores the ‘colour’ of France

Published:Sunday | November 29, 2015 | 11:00 AMRuth Howard
Myrtha Désulmé, president, Haiti-Jamaica Society (left) in conversation with French-Ivorian filmmaker Isabelle Boni-Claverie.

French-Ivorian film-maker Isabelle Boni-Claverie released her documentary Trop Noire pour Ítre FranÁaise? (Too Black to be French?) to critical acclaim earlier this year. Last Thursday, at the behest of the Alliance FranÁaise de la JamaÔque, a small group of Jamaicans had the distinct pleasure of being present at the film's first screening in a Caribbean country, and to an English-speaking audience.

Using her family history, interviews with anonymous persons, and the opinions of renowned sociologists and historians, Boni-Claverie's documentary explores the issue of race in France, drawing on a powerful first-person narrative that asks questions of culture, identity and belonging.

Boni-Claverie's juxtaposition of her own story and experiences, alongside those of other black French, and the unassuming earnestness of her tone, results in an uncompounded exposÈ, speaking to the heart of an issue which has affected many generations before her. Every segment of the documentary echoes the need for open, honest dialogue, and resultant change.

QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SEGMENT

Boni-Claverie herself was present to take questions after the screening of the film. She spoke freely of racial tensions in France, and how it affected her own sense of identity, noting that although from a privileged background, she was still a victim of discrimination.

When asked whether she had achieved the objective of making the film, she answered simply: "Yes. I made the film I wanted to make," and went on to explain that she has been overwhelmed by the reactions it has provoked.

"I have had calls from blacks saying, 'Thank you. We recognise ourselves in what you are saying'; and I have had calls from whites saying it helped them to understand what minorities are experiencing."

This, she says, is the objective of her film: to continue the dialogue on race in France and, hopefully, advance the conversation necessary for the creation of a France in which a French citizen will simply be a French citizen, regardless of race.

There will be another screening of the documentary at the Alliance FranÁaise de la JamaÔque, 4 Bradley Avenue, on Thursday, December 3, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $500.

ruth.howard@gleanerjm.com