Film: Lucien Jean-Baptiste’s La Première étoile

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La Première étoile [The First Star] is Lucien Jean-Baptiste’s first feature film. The film presents a “pioneering comedy in black and white [that is] as profound as it is light” about the adventures of a black family suddenly plunged into the white world of a winter ski resort. The plot centers on a West-Indian family living in France. Jean-Gabriel, a father of five, is unemployed and trying to make ends meet. During a family dinner he impetuously agrees to take his family to the mountainside for ski holidays. When his wife threatens to leave him if he disappoints the children as he has done in the past, Jean-Gabriel has to find a way to keep his promise. Jean-Gabriel faces all sorts of obstacles before and during the trip, including the incredulity and derision he confronts in both black and white communities.

Interviewed by Falila Gbadmassi for Afrik.com, Martinican-born director Lucien Jean-Baptiste explains that the idea for the film was loosely based on his own experiences as a child. When his family arrived in France from Martinique when he was three, his mother began her efforts to help the family’s process of assimilation. Since the children’s classmates left for ski resorts in the winter, she told herself that her children would also be able to ski— a difficult goal, due to their financial situation. The film is a way to pay tribute to his mother and to give a presence to the absent father figure. Another important character is the gutsy Caribbean grandmother, whose strength, authority, and sense of humor are central to the film’s questioning about family, displacement, racism, and the construction of national and ethnic identity.

For interview (in French), see www.afrik.com/article16486.html

For preview, see

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