Paroles de nègres

Words of Negroes

Sylvaine Dampierre

OmeU, dt. UT
Audience Award

The Grand Anse sugar refinery on the tiny island of Marie-Galante is the setting for the re-enactment of a 1842 court case. Workers read out passages from the transcripts of the trial in which a plantation owner is accused of murdering the enslaved Sébastien, who died in a cell after three months in jail. He had been accused of poisoning one of his owner’s oxen.

In the noisy factory setting, we learn that no-one listened to Sébastien as he tried to defend his innocence. We hear the deafening roar of off-screen machines, the hiss of steam and a piercing beep.

The factory still bears the name of the former plantation where Sébastien was born. Its existence today is the result of years of colonial exploitation of people and land.

Some of the performers who lend their body and voice to the documented testimonies in the film are themselves descendants of enslaved people. Negotiations about the enactment of the trial appear here as a form of appropriation, when the workers begin to read out the records in Creole instead of French. The film mixes reading and role-play; the performers correct each other, sometimes reading to themselves, sometimes reading more for the camera. They keep the factory going, carry within them knowledge about the workings of a complex system – a system of dependency that has not vanished but has been transformed through self-empowerment. – Eva Busch

Guests: Sylvaine Dampierre, Eva Busch

This film has been nominated for the Audience Award endowed with 1,000 euro. Please vote after watching the movie.
You can find an overview of all nominated films here.

Director / Script

Sylvaine Dampierre


Renaud Personnaz


Sophie Reiter


Greg Le Maître


Sophie Salbot – Athénaise


Varan Caraïbe, Micro Climats, PRO ARTI


Sylvaine Dampierre

Portrait of director Sylvaine Dampierre

Sylvaine Dampierre

Writer and director Sylvaine Dampierre lives and works in Paris und Guadeloupe. She is a graduate of the École supérieur des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and co-founder of Télé-Rencontres, an internal TV channel in the Paris detention centre La Santé. She worked as an editor until 1998, when her directorial debut The Island marked the beginning of a career as a film-maker. Since 1993, she has taught at Atelier Varan and in 2020 became co-initiator and pedagogical manager of Varan Caraïbes, organising and supervising training workshops in directing, editing, sound narration and web documentary in Guadeloupe.

Films by Sylvaine Dampierre (Selection)
Piazza Mora 2013 | Le pays à l’envers 2009 | Pouvons-nous vivre ici? 2002 | D’un jardin, l’autre 1998–2005