Martinique, in the early 1930s. Young José and his grandmother live in a small village. Nearly everyone works cutting cane and barely earning a living. The overseer can fine a worker for ... See full summary »
Martinique, in the early 1930s. Young José and his grandmother live in a small village. Nearly everyone works cutting cane and barely earning a living. The overseer can fine a worker for the smallest infraction. The way to advance is to do well in school. José studies hard and succeeds in an exam allowing him to attend school in the capital. With only a partial scholarship, the tuition is very costly. José and his grandmother move to Fort-de-France to make José's studies easier... Written by
A bright youth, living in grinding poverty in a shanty town among the cane fields of Martinique, has the chance to escape, thanks to a heroic grandmother and teachers who admire and foster his potential. While the audience sympathises with Jose's desire to get out of Black Shack Alley, it is treated to the richness of the Alley's life, to Medouze's sonorous tales of life in Afrique, to the antics of the village children, and to the kindness of its adults. It adds up to an affirmation of life that makes this an enjoyable film. If I have reservations, they are that every issue is dragged in for an airing, however brief and undeveloped (bright girl having to leave school; 'Mulatto' son of French planter unacknowledged; exploitation of workers), and that big events, e.g., deaths, are contrived to occur predictably, and at the 'right' time. Some of the direction, e.g., of the children's scenes, is a bit clunky. These things having been said, this film is a pleasant experience, and one that I recommend.
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