Marc Barrat’s Orpailleur [The Gold Forest]

Guyanese director Marc Barrat’s first feature film Orpailleur [The Gold Forest, 2009] is due to be released in France on June 16, 2010. The film has been screened in film festivals worldwide. In 2009 it was shown at the Amazonas Film Festival, International Mostra Sao Paolo, and the Festival du Film de l’Environnement de Paris, among others, and Julien Courbey won an award as “Best Actor” for this film at the Festival du Film d’Angouleme. In 2010 it has continued touring and has been screened at the French Film Festival in Richmond (U.S.), the Festival de l’Outaouais (Quebec), the Saint-Barth Film Festival, and the Projection Parallèle Festival de Cannes. It will soon be aired on French television.

Filmed in Guiana, Orpailleur  centers on Rod, a young Parisian originally from French Guiana who, 18 years after leaving his native country, goes back to find that his elder brother  has disappeared. Gonz, his childhood friend “from the deprived estates, goes with him. In Cayenne, the discovery of a painful family secret thrusts Rod into a frantic search for the truth. He gets to know Yann, a young green tourism guide who is furious about the ravages of illegal gold panning. All three are then drawn into a spiral that carries them to the end of the river in the heart of the Amazon forest and into the hostile archaic milieu of the illegal gold panners.”  The cast includes Tony Mpoudia (Rod), Julien Courbey (Gonz), Sara Martins (Yann), Jimmy Jean-Louis (Myrtho), and Philippe Nahon (Zpapa).

Asked about the film’s historical background, Barrat explains: “Since 1995, a new exodus, a new gold rush has been occurring in French Guiana. Today, the extracted gold is around 100-150 meters deep underground. Forty tons of gold reserves, which presents a substantial opportunity for all; the forest is therefore in considerable danger. It’s necessary to tackle the problem at the source, so cooperation with Brazil and Suriname, the two bordering countries is necessary. The paradox is that Guiana is a French territory, where unbelievable stories are taking place. The people who are looking for gold are not necessarily driven by the quest for profit; they are first and foremost individuals trying to survive by the only means available. There is at the same time profound modernity and archaism. And all this takes place in the majestic National Amazonian Park in French Guiana. For that reason we cannot remain indifferent.”

Marc Barrat was born in 1967 in French Guiana. He studied in Paris at the ESRA (Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle). From 1990, he worked as a director’s assistant for television ads and feature films. Meanwhile he directed his first short film Le blues du Maskilili.  Shot in Guyana, it was selected in more than 20 French and foreign festivals and was nominated 5 times. Between 2001 and 2004 French Ministry of Health hired him to direct 14 short films to promote AIDS prevention in French Guiana.

For reviews, see http://www.iledefrance.fr/fife-english/2009-program/orpailleur/ and http://www.frenchfilm.vcu.edu/2010/orpailleur.html

For preview, see

Watch Marc Barrat and Sara Martins speak about Orpailleur and the situation of the Amazonian jungle at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xab94c_orpailleur_shortfilms

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