A visceral, hypnotic trip that will take us to the spiritual core of the suffering of Haiti. Madame has come to feed the starving black masses and they have come to be fed. This hunger, this desire will bring Madame out into the real Haiti, where she will for the first time see and hear the land and its people, smell the reality of their suffering, the reality of her own body. She will at last touch, and be touched.
Rarely do debut features come along that are as assured as this meditation on colonialism and the evolving ethnic tension in Haiti. Themes of death, subordination, and revolt are all rendered through poetic images that feel refreshingly unique.
Michelange Quay's shocking feature debut is a quiet, steady study in power. If it unnerves and even outrages some viewers, that only shows how potent the twin forces of race and sex still are. Quay, who made his reputation with a transgressive short film called L'Évangile du cochon créole (The Gospel of the Creole Pig), again finds rich material in his native Haiti. Distilled from the narratives of slavery, liberation, recolonization and Vodoun - known colloquially as voodoo - this is a critically important new look at how power flows between black and white.
Quay begins with a spectacular aerial swoop into Haiti, followed by an immediate plunge into the thick of a Vodoun ceremony. Then, a line of black boys walks across a parched landscape and directly into a château. There they are washed, shorn and clothed in new suits. Brought to meet their mysterious hostess (Sylvie Testud), they endure her pale, trembling hand on their dark skin. So begins a round of surreal and sober games.
As if inspired by a taboo-busting conversation between Luis Buñuel, Georges Bataille and Frantz Fanon, Eat, for This Is My Body carries the vivid images and startling juxtapositions of a dream. Testud is remarkable as the still centre of the film, even as she presides over increasingly bizarre rituals.
One can choose to see the film as a bold allegory of the colonial relationship, or simply one director's personal vision of the Haitian dilemma. Quay's daring, impressive debut both invites and rewards countless readings, which will inevitably depend on how one thinks and feels about black boys and white women.
Cameron Bailey (Toronto Film Fest)
Michelange Quay, France, Haiti, 2007, 1h45, Color
In French with English subtitles
With Sylvie Testud, Catherine Samie, Hans Dacosta Saint-Val
Director: Michelange Quay
Producer: Tom Dercourt
Production company: Cinéma Defacto
Sales: Memento Films
Print source: Memento Films
Scenario: Michelange Quay
Cast: Sylvie Testud, Catherine Samie, Hans Dacosta Saint-Val, Jean-Noël Pierre
Photography: Thomas Ozoux
Editor: Jean-Marie Lengellé
Art Design: Valérie Massadian
Sound: Nicholas Leroy
Music: Malik Mezzadri, Madioko
2009 | World Nomads Haiti | NEW YORK, USA | May 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2009 | French Institute Alliance Française, 22 East 60th Street, NYC | www.fiaf.org/events/spring2009/2009-05-world-nomads.shtml
* Selection "CinémaTuesdays: World Nomads Haiti "
2008 | IFFR 2008 - 37th International Film Festival Rotterdam | ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands | www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com |
> VPRO Tiger Awards Competition
2007 | TIFF 2007 - Toronto International Film Festival | TORONTO, Canada | www.tiff07.ca |