Le Gout des Jeunes Filles is the story of Fanfan, a young Haitian boy who begins to lose his innocence and naiveté over the course of a long weekend in 1971.
Fanfan is a studious young man and a dutiful son, but in one night he becomes caught up in events beyond his control that set him on the course to adulthood. After an evening out with his friend Gege goes awry, he is swept up in a world in which violence and the corruption of power are omnipresent threats. The brutality of the Duvalier dictatorship is a central theme of the film, particularly as Fanfan becomes more aware of the turmoil of the world around him. Unless the viewer possesses more than a superficial knowledge of Haitian history, some of the events may be confusing. The presence of an American and a French journalist attempt to provide some historical context, and in addition, snippets of information are provided through voice-over narration and character commentary.
However, this is really Fanfan's story and there is no doubt as to the havoc the Duvalier regime has wreaked on his life and that of his fellow countrymen. Although the film is primarily about Fanfan, different characters - from a prostitute to a member of the feared Tonton Macoute death squads -address the camera to give insight into their experiences and motivations. Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the film is the vulnerability of women and children in a society ruled by terror and violence. The different ways in which Fanfan and his best friend navigate this treacherous territory, and the relationship that develops between Fanfan and his beautiful neighbors show how a society's less powerful members adapt to a system of brute force governance without giving up their humanity.
This film is an intriguing snapshot of a country that continues to be haunted by its history. As the people of Haiti struggle to rebuild a country devastated by earthquake, perhaps they can shed some of their troubled past without losing their vibrant culture.
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