Sugar Cane Alley (1983) - full transcript

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...


Dedicated to the world's
Black Shack Alleys.

Governorate of Martinique,
Riviére-Salée. August 1930...

It was school vacation time.

The children on
Black Shack Alley

waited impatiently

for their parents to go
to work in the cane fields

so they'd be left free
for the day.


See how neat the shack is.

Your clothes are clean.

Don't give me reason to be mad
when I get back!

Good morning, Amantine.

Hurry, Twelve-toes!

Were you with the zombies
last night?

Yes, I was on Madame Dede.

They've gone!

Come, they've gone.

Hurry! You'll miss
the fight!

If the mongoose wins,
give me your watch.

You're crazy!
Carmen gave it to me.

I won. Give me your watch.

Miss, I didn't bet with youl

Liar! Give me your watch.

You only have bananas?

You don't even have

Last night we ate
fruitbread and pork.

It was so very good!

So very good.

What's Gesner doing?

Hurry, Gesner,
we're eating at Jose's.

Let's eat outside.

I have flour and codfish.
But we eat outside.

Stop showing off.
Let us in.

I said we're eating outside.

There's the overseer!

The overseer!

He's gone.

Where's the sugar?

There's none.

Look for it.

I said there's no sugar.

You're sure your grandma
didn't hide it?

It's all gone.

Too bad! I'll look
for it anyway.

I told you, there's no sugar!

She must hide it!

If it's in Jesus' robes,
I'll find it!

If you think
it's in Jesus' robes,

then search in Heaven,
not here!

The sugar's all gone.

You look in the boxes.
I'll check the bedroom.

I'll come with you.

Don't you understand?

There's no more sugar!

I'll look under the bed.



Look on the beams.

My ma hides it there.

I know! In the chamber pot!



Take off those shoes!

Gesner, you're a liar!
You broke the bowl!

Ma Tine's bowl!

Liar! You did it!

Just say a hen did it!

Twelve-Toes' hen.

She climbed on the table
and knocked down the bowl.

Julien Twelve-Toes'
frizzy hen!

Scared that Ma Tine
will beat you?

You need a charm.

No, a chant is better.

3 dogs, 3 cats, don't let
Ma Tine beat Jose!

No. A charm is better.
It'll save you.

No sugar!
So let's eat the flour!

You pig!

We'll make a grass charm,
so Ma Tine won't beat him.

3 knots in a blade of grass,
you'll be saved.

Hold it tight!

When your grandma arrives,
toss it behind you.

She'll scream and swear,
but she won't beat you.

Don't stare at adults.

It's rude.

Amantine, I see you're
enjoying your pipe!

If I were alone I wouldn't
light the fire tonight.

I'd put a pinch of salt
oh my tongue.

To keep the worms
from attacking my heart.

Then I'd go to bed
because I'm tired.

Tired like an old mule.

What does that say?

"Splendor and development
of the bust."

"Rebuild your bosom
with oriental pills."

"Develop firm breasts.”

"No more protruding bones."

"Give graceful curves
to your bosom."

A well-brought up child
uses a spoon.

You broke my bowl!

And you had the nerve
to glue it!

You thought
I wouldn't notice?

The only thing
your dead mother left mel

Little scoundrel!

What were you looking for
in my things?

Get on your knees!

Ma Tine or not,
work faster!

Do your work properly!

The bundles must be thicker
and the cane is too short.

Do your work properly!

Make thicker bundles!

Ti Cocol
No pissing on work time!

Fine him 15 cents!
- Yes, boss.

Whitey's in his easy chair

Black man burns in the sun

Ti Coco pisses

Bossman comes along


Every day I'd go see Carmen.

He worked on the river boat
that went to Fort-de France.


The city that all the village
children dream about...

It's you, Jose.

Isn't she cute?

And the one yesterday?

It's not my fault!
Girls won't leave me alone.

Now, the serious stuff.

All right.

The "H" is good,
so is the "L".

Your "0" is too fat.

Your "U" is dancing
the beguine!

Is it really dancing
the beguine?

Do it over.

A riddle!
- I'm ready.

Whenever you see her,
she's pregnant.

But she never gives birth.

The full moon.

Another riddle!
- I'm ready.

Guess it and I'll give you
a white blackbird.

Little black boy, dressed
in white, in a green castle.

Medouze, the cutter!

Ti Cocol

12 francs minus 10 cents.

A custard apple!

Cane doesn't need
your fertilizer!

Listen to that!

You're always pissing!

If you're sick
go see a doctor!

He's not sick, just lazy!

If my kidneys burst
1 still have to hold it in!

Take your money and scram!

Amantine, the Grandmal

Julien Twelve-Toes!

Is that all?

What did you expect?

You got your duel!

He broke his back!
That's all you give him?

Madame, 18 francs.

He couldn't do
that many rows in 5 days.

If it was too much,
he should've refused it.

You women always
talk nonsense!

Could anyone else
cut more cane than that?




Don't waste your saliva!

When you die, Whitey will stick
our money up your ass!

God damn it! All my money
went to the shop!

What can I do with no money?
It's time I died!

45 francs.

That's not enough.
You're short 6.50.

Put it on today's tab.

All right. On today's tab.

Give me 2 pig's tails...

Half a pot of flour...

And sliver of butter.

Is it you, child?

I'm not asleep, you know?

Just resting my old body.

Damn cane fields!

And cric!

And crac!

Are stories...
...worth telling? Yes! They are!

And cric!
- And crac!

Once upon a time... Martinique...

there was a sad
and ugly old black man.

A liar would say,
"ugly as Jose."

But I'm not a liar, so...

...I'd say ugly as Medouze.

Everyday, the old man
spoke of his country.

- Crac!



That country was called...


My dad's country.

The country of
your father's father.

The old black...

Sad and ugly...

Who had cried during
all his youth...

...would always say to me...

"Medouze, your old father
will die soon,"

"without ever understanding
what happened..."

"when the whites
landed here."

The old black also added:

"I had a big brother,

a little sister, Sokhna."

"The white men hunted us."

"They caught us
with lassos."

"Then... after many days,
journey through the bush,"

"They took us to the edge
of the big water."

"One day, we were
unloaded here."

"We were sold to cut cane
for the whites."

"I was a young boy like you,

"All the blacks came down
from the hills with sticks,"

"machetes, guns and torches."

"They invaded the town
of St. Pierre."

"They burned all the homes."

"For the first time, blacks saw
whites shake with fear,"

"lock themselves
in their mansions and die."

"That was how slavery ended."

And the old black man said...

"l ran so much..."

I think I ran all around

"When my feet refused
to go on"

"I looked ahead and behind."

"I saw I was back
in Black Shack Alley again."

"It was back
to the cane fields."

"We were free, but our bellies
were empty."

"The Master had become
the Boss!"

"So I stayed on, like all
the other blacks"

in this cursed country."

That's how my old Papa spoke.

Nothing has changed, son.

The whites own all the land.

The law forbids
their beating us,

but it doesn't force them
to pay us a decent wage.

If you went to Africa,
Mr. Medouze...

I'd go with you.

Alas, my child...

Medouze will never go
to Africa.

Medouze has no one left
in Africa.

When I will be dead...

when my old body
is buried...

then I'll go to Africa.

But I can't take you along.

We'll all go back to Africa,
one day.

Don't you worry.

I don't like Twelve-Toes.

He keeps all his fruit
for himself.

He planted...

broken bottles all around.


he came after me
like a devil.


He wants to hurt us!

Break it down.

Come on!

Not me!

Me, neither!

A hen's egg!


An egg!

It's pretty!

Do we eat it?

We'll cook it.

We'll taste an egg!

I want the biggest piece.

We need matches.

There aren't any.

The store has some.

But I'll take guts
to get some.

We have no money!

Say our ma wants them...
on credit.

Not me!

Victorine, you gol!

Me? Victorine?

You know how to show off
in front of boys...

...but you don't dare go
to the store?

You're silly.
You go, Orelie.

If you don't, you won't
even get a sliver of egg!

Jose, get me a bottle.

What for?

You'll see.

Tell me.

What'll you do with it?

Something silly,
and Dad will beat us tonight.

Tell me!

What would you like?

Some rum, please.

Is your daddy home already?

He told me to get it
this morning, but I forgot.

You forgot!

A big girl like you, forget!

You remember to play,
but you forget errands!

The matches!

Is that all?

Yes, Madame Lina...

Oh, I forgot...

I also wanted the matches.

It burns.

You're too greedy!
Give it to me!

Give me some!

Leave some for us!

When Twelve-Toes is drunk,
he walks on all fours,

and grunts...

like a pig.

When my daddy is drunk,
he says, "I'm the boss,"

"and don't go thinking
I'm drunk!"


Fire, fire, fire...

What'll we do
with these kids?

They put rum on my bill
at the store.

Punish her!

You burned everything
I owned!

I'm a tough girl!

We'll see if you're tough!

My head is spinning!

Now Julien's stick will spin...
on your behind!

Shame on youl
Burning my garden, my chickens.

Little bastards!


Aren't you ashamed,
beating a child like that?

Listen to that!

They burned my garden,
my chickens.

Now, I'm in the wrong!

Don't mess with me!

Sir, the manager is here.

I told you to do your job

We sent for you
because of the fire.

Look at that!

Your cane gets dirtier
all the time.

It's more than 20% rubbish!

Look at it!
What's that?

I can't make sugar
with cane like that!

You ape!

You wrapped each cane... dead leaves!
- I'll break your ass!

And what about this fire?

And I build houses
for them!

Next, they'll set fire
to my cane!

The kids shouldn't
hang around there!

What'll do with them?

We could use
some extra help.

What's that?
That's a bundle of cane?

Each cane must be
3 feet long.

You're always thirsty, scram!


Your grandmother thinks
you'll get a government job.

You're not working.

Saturday we'll get paid.
You'll get nothing!

Go away, little boy!

I want to work too.

I'm the only kid
not working.

I won't let you end up
in the cane fields.

Like all blacks
without pride...

...who throw their kids
into the same misery!

Tortilla came to get Ma Tine
to deliver her ma's baby.

But it was stillborn
like her last.

Ma Tine said...

"Another kid saved from
the white man's cane fields."

I thought only of one thing.

My first meeting
with my new schoolteacher...

Mr. Stephen Roc.

Behave at Madame Leonce's.

Show that you're well
brought up.

Don't worry.

Paul, we'll be late
for school.

You're lucky she agreed...

to do us this favor.

I heard them!

Flying over the roof.
They were so noisy!

You think they're birds,
but they're witches.

Zombies, real devils!

You saw them?

You crazy?
They might break my leg...

twist my mouth,
push in my eyes.

Then what?

Grandma says to put
a wooden cross on the roof.

Breaks the wings...

and they fall down.

Some don't fly.

They become dogs,
cats and snakes.

And if you go out...

at midnight...
you've had it!

There's a 3-legged horse
that gallops every night.

It goes cloppity, cloppity, cloppity.

I'll tell you something...

But don't tell anyone.

Mr. Godisar, the druggist...

and Miss Antoine,
from the Town Hall...

They're both witches.

As for the whites...
they're devils.

Don't ever look at them
at night!

Just clench some earth
in your hand and say:

Back, Satan!

Liar! That's just stories.

Zombies don't exist!

What did you say?
Repeat it!

I said you're a liar!

You don't know about whites.
They've got everything.

They don't need
to become cats or dogs.

Ask your dad if a cat or dog
sent him to work in a factory!

The School Certificate...

is most indispensable
to the humblest of people.

Those who work hard enough
to earn it...

will be certain to lead
a decent life.

For the others,
as you know,

it'll be the cane fields.

With the School Certificate
some may go right to work...

or go on...

to study for the Elementary
Teacher's Certificate.

The others...
the best ones...

may try for some scholarships
in Fort-de-France.

Now take your books,

and write on the middle
of the first page...

a sentence you should read
every morning.


"is the key that opens
the second door to our freedom."

Write it down.

Jose, won't you eat with us?

Ma Tine won't let me.

Too bad!

Anyway, I'm mad at you.

Hello, Madame Fusil...
how are you?

Hello, son.
How's your grandma?

Not well today.
When it rains, her knee hurts.

Here, young fellow.

Eat this.

Tell your grandma
that she needn't bother.

I'll make your lunch.

Thank you, Madame Leonce.

Will you do me a favor?

Yes, Ma'am.

Shine some shoes for me.

What did the teacher
teach you today?

Lots of things.

I learned:
"class dismissed!"

"Gesner, Albicy,
don't cheat!"

"Vireil, extend your arms!"

Ma says, "Thank you."

Thanks, dear.

That's all he taught you,
all day?

I'm just teasing you.

We learned the difference...

between counties
and districts.

Like Creuse and Aubusson.


What names they have!

Madame Leonce says,
don't bother making my lunch.

She has enough food.

Did you understand right?

That's what she said,

Impossible! She's already
letting you eat there.

I hope it wasn't
your ideal

No, Grandma.

What is this?

It's patagon...

Patagon tea cures
a sore throat.

You didn't forget.

All things in creation
have their secrets.

The soil has a secret.

Water has a secret.
Fire has a secret!


Don't think that water and fire
are enemies. No!

They're the forces of creation.

Each needs the other
to create life!

Yes... they create life!

See that?

What? The ant?

If I step on it,
it's all over.

But try making it
go again!

No one must meddle
with life.

Man can only destroy life,
he can't recreate it!

My son...

Let creation settle
its own affairs.

We must learn to accept
the workings of creation...

without weeping or sorrow.

Since, one way or another,
it always works out best.

Young lad, forget
your own name...

but don't ever forget that.

Get out of there!


Yes, Madame Leonce.

You'll do one more little job
for me, my little black boy?

But Ma'am...
I have to go to school!

I'm always late!

It'll just take 2 minutes.

You forgot your dish.

That's very good!

You're a very interesting
little boy.

Spread the dishes
in the sun.

I'll be late!

If you didn't talk so much,
you'd already be done.

Stay there, Mr. Hassam!


Find a word that comes
from "terra."


That's awful!

Vireill You try.

Why are you late,
Mr. Hassam?


Go and extend
your arms!

Territory, sir!


Now give me the opposite
of these words.

Tortilla Saint-Louis...
go to the blackboard.




Little brat!

The end!

Thank you,
Miss Saint-Louis. Good!

Come in, Mr. Hassam.

Don't think you can escape
the vocabulary lesson!

Mr. Hassam...

tell us the difference

"cackling" and "singing."


we use the word "sing"
for people...

when their voices
express music.

For instance...

My grandma likes a good smoke,
she loves to sing.


We also say
that animals sing:

Turtledoves, pipits...
And mountain larks...

Things can sing too:

The wind in the cane,
the falling rain...

the rivers, even the wheels
of carts.

Some other words describe
the type of singing:

A toad is said to croak...

Cart wheels...

- They squeak.

When a hen lays an egg...

it sings to announce it.
That's called cackling.

Very good, Hassam.

You defined the terms well...

such a brilliant student
shouldn't be late to school.

Leopold, your father said
not to talk to those children.

Brat! I'll tell your mal

Good evening,
Madame Leonce!

Little scoundrel!

I'll spank youl


You've been with those
black kids again.

Your father doesn't want you
to play with them.

What's that, mother?

The latest tune. Your father
had it sent from France.

Tamarind or plum juice?

I'll have plum.

That boy exasperates me!

Didn't I tell you
not to go out?

You've been
to Mr. Medouze's 3 times.

He's not there.

Then, what were you doing

You forget there's a time
to put food in your belly.

Mr. Medouze isn't there.

He can go where he wants.

Grandma, Mr. Medouze...

God's sake!
Don't pester me about him!

It's not like
Mr. Medouze...

He's wired
his door shut!

Medouze isn't there!

He's not in bed?

No, Jose would've seen him.
He's gonel

Where could he be?

Paul, bring the torch!

Ti Coco, get up!
Medouze has disappeared!

Twelve-Toes, grab
your torch and machete!

Medouze isn't there?

Hurry! We have
to look for him.

He's here!

Mr. Saint-Louis,
where are you?

Ladies and gentlemen...

the cane fields,

ate Mister Medouze's life.

So he went to die
in the cane fields.

He layed down his hide
and his old opossum's bones.

May his soul rest in peace
in all the days to come.

Always, for time
in memoriam. Amen!

Ladies and gentlemen...

Mister Medouze is dead,

but don't let it pain
your hearts.

For guess why,
ladies and gentlemen...

why Medouze laid his old body
in the cane to die?

If he hid his body to die
in the cane fields, he did it...

so that we, his brothers...

would not inherit
his old sleeping board...

smoothed by his old bones
and the pipe,

that never left him...
night or day.

Mister Medouze didn't want
his old brothers,

to inherit his bantam,
defeated in all its fights,

or his barrels of gold
and silver,

that Whitey gave him
with a kick in the ass,

saying, go on,
old nigger,

smelling of piss,

saying, go on, old nigger,
last generation after the toads!

Now Mr. Medouze
is on his way to Africa.

...And the dead who are dead
shall return to earth.

I have an errand to do,

at the dressmaker,

I'll stop to thank
Madame Leonce.

See the fine hen...

I'm bringing here.

Go, do your homework.

Yes, Ma.

I'll be right back.

What'd you eat at hoon?



Nothing at all?

Plum juice...

Gustard apple.

That's no nourishment!

Why didn't you tell me
what happened with Leonce?

Go get your books
and your bedding.

Where are you going?

Ask her!

Me? You're crazy!

Hurry up!

Now we'll go to town
to live with Madame Fusil.

I'll cook for you myself.

God will give me
the strength and courage...

to return
to Whitey's cane fields.

Remember, tomorrow I'll ask
again about Alpine glaciers.

Class dismissed!

Evening, Godmother Fanny.

Evening, teacher.

Where is God?

God is everywhere,

in Heaven, on earth,

and in all places.

What is man's fate?

Man's fate is...

...death, judgment,

Heaven and hell.

What is Heaven?

Heaven is...


...fear and respect
in God's house.

Heaven is a place
of delight,

where the Saints and God,

enjoy eternal happiness.

All together.

Once more!

What is hell?

Hell is a place
of torments...

Mr. de Thorail!

You know that white man?

He's my father!
- Your papal

Blessed by the Pope!

Specially shipped
from Lourdes to Rome.

Kneel, children...

Let us pray to thank
Mr. Auberville.

Your grandmother's sick.

Mister Saint-Louis
brought her back.

I've done everything
I could.

But if she's not better

she'll have to go
to the doctor.

I made your supper.

Eat it all, now.

I'll come by for news

Don't worry... Eat.

Thank you, Madame Fusil.

Good night, my boy.

Have you eaten?

Yes, Grandma.

Wash your feet.

Make your bed!

You're still here?

What do you want?

You'll see, Grandma...

Some day
I'll take care of you.

We'll have a big house...
with flowers...

hen, rabbits, pigs...

You won't have to go
to the cane fields.

Don't forget your prayers.

Good night, Grandma.

I wouldn't mind
a little smoke.

You shouldn't be here,
and you know it.

With that barefoot boy,

who can't speak French.

I told you not to see him.

Bring me the horse!

Bring that horse, dammit!

He says he's going to die.

Don't cry.

What'll become of us?

I'm here, Mother.

Don't stay here.
Go, do your homework.

What did he say?

Your spleen is ruptured,

and it's bleeding internally.

- So, it's all over.
Don't say that.

The doctor may be

My plots of land
in Baufond...

they're for Leopold.

I'm the last de Thorail
who wore it.

Now it's his.

If Leopold lost
all those properties...

what would he have
of yours?

Please, recognize him.

Having your name
would be...

the most lasting

De Thorail...

That name was borne
by generations of whites.

It's not for Leopold.

But he's your son!

It's not a mulatto's name.

It's a white man's.

- Leopold!

He doesn't want me!

Two days later,
Mr. de Thorail died.

All the rich whites came.

But Leopold...

hadn't returned,
and was missing from school.

The School Certificate exam
was soon upon us.

All ten pupils chosen
by Mr. Roc passed it.

May I have a word with you
both in private?

This way, please.

I chose your 2 children...

to represent our school
in the scholarship exam

next week
in Fort-de-France.


Mr. Roc...

I'm deeply moved
by what you've told me.

I can't let her continue.

I can't...

There are my other kids.

And the post-mistress...

is trying to find her
a little job.

Do you realize
how lucky she is?

I know... But I can't,

I really can't.

I understand.

And you, Madame?

I'll do all I can.

He'll have to succeed!

It won't be easy,
I warn you.

But I'm sure he'll pass.

Because he's a brilliant

Clean now?
- Fine.

Now I'll find out
what's in there.

Just put it on,
and leave me in peace!

Even in Black Shack Alley...

you were sure
I'd pass the exam?

Hurry, Madame Amantine.
You're late.

We're ready, Captain!

Going to Fort-de-France?

Read all about it!

"The People's Voice"

Paper, sir?
The latest news.

"Farmers everywhere
dug up the soil,"

"to kill the locust eggs."

"Each lump of earth
was turned over,"

"carefully broken up."

"It was a pitiful sight."

"Thousands of white roots
full of sap,"

"could be seen
in the crumbling fertile soil."

Alphonse Daudet.

First question:

Explain the following words:




Good! Very good!

Damn! You made a mistake
in the last question.

We did the same problem
so often!

I don't know how you did
in dictation, but...

How Ma Tine has changed!

I don't know
the right word.

At least she lets me lie
on her bed...

Ah! Grown ups!

Ladies and gentlemen.

Lucky guy!

He passed!

Thank you, Holy Mother!

Tomorrow, you register.
The courses start at once.

You'll have to ask if
he's a boarder or a day pupil.

Good luck, my boy.

The overseer's office, please?

Over there.

Morning, Mr. Overseer.

Here's Jose Hassam.

You're his mother?

No, Sir.

She's dead.
But I'm raising him.

He's been granted
a 1/4 scholarship.

But you'll have to pay
87.50 francs tuition.


Yes, Madame,
per trimester.

Per trimester?

Yes. Every 3 months.

What about
his scholarship?

After you've paid
the tuition,

which is due within
2 weeks.


Does he get board?

No, he's a day pupil.


I don't make the rules!


They're wicked.

1/4 scholarship!
That's like giving nothing!

They don't know
I'm a fighting woman!

I won't give up
that 1/4 scholarship!

we'll move
to Fort-de-France.

You'll attend their school!

2 large rolls.

They're stupid...
with those silly cars!

What'll we do?
School starts tomorrow.

I'll go home to get
your things ready.

Until we find a place...

you could stay
with Carmen.

He rents a room
from his bosses.

Well-roasted peanuts!

He's there.

We'll wait.
He's busy now.

Look, Grandma.

Did it all go well?

Could I sleep in your room
a few nights?

School starts tomorrow.

My bosses wouldn't allow it.

Grandma's going home.

But I have nowhere to stay,

and school starts tomorrow.

I have an idea.

Sleep on the boat after
the last trip.

I'll wake you
at daybreak.

Thank you, son.
God bless you.

Don't mention it, Ma Tine.

Forgive me for butting in...

There's a place on the other
side of the town.

It's only an empty car crate...

Some people move out
of it yesterday.

Holy Virgin, give me
the strength...

to hold out here
in Fort-de-France...

in this wicked town...

Too many people, too much noise,
too many cars.

You can't cross the street
without being honked at.

Listen to that!
That's no life!

Careful with your suit.

Don't get it dirty
for school.

Don't worry, Grandma.

You'll see,
a month from now...

when people ask you,
"Where are you from?"

You'll say:

of course!"

Me? Amantine?

In the 5th century, there were
4 great playwrights.

Aeschylus, Sophocles,
Euripides and Aristophanes.

I didn't do it!

Break it!

Go on!

I don't want to!

You'll be sorry.

It's you, Carmen.
Are you 0. K?

Old Whitey tried to ruin
my day...

but I don't let it
upset me.

Very good!
No mistakes.


Not a single mistake!

That was my biggest

Now, I'm ready!

That's why I'm a houseboy
for those fancy people...

why I save on the boat,
and at the cinema...

For years, I've wanted to be
an actor.

Now I feel I'm ready.

I'll go to Hollywood.
Some day I'll be famous.

I have to get back.

Carmen is the right name
for youl

How come?

It means "charm"!

Good night!

Your paper's good,
de Chazal.

Mr. Arnaud!

It's hopeless.

No imagination,

no syntax.

It's a disgrace.

And now, Hassam's paper!

Be quiet, Fontaine.

Hassam describes
his great friendship...

with a very old man
named Medouze...

who was, in a way,
his spiritual father...

and who, the cane killed.

He ends in these words...

"Although I like to chew
the ends of sugar cane,"

"a cane field will always be
an accursed place to me."

"Where blacks are doomed
at age 8 to weed and hoe,"

"in withering storms,
and the devouring sun.”

"Blacks in rags,
stinking of sweat"

"and dung,"

"fed on a handful of flour
and 2 cents worth of rum,"

"who collapse miserably
one night,"

"in a row of cane,"

"and die on a grimy plank
on the ground,"

"in an empty, filthy shack!"

Mr. Hassam...

you didn't write this.

You cheated!

No... No, sir!

Be quiet!

I don't know from where
you copied,

but I'm sure you did.

Sir, with all due respect,
you're wrong!

Don't persist.
You know you're lying.

You're wrong, Sir!

I didn't cheat!

Get back inside!

Remember, we're dining
at the Governor's.

Where have you been?

Pick me up at 2 p.m.
at Madame de la Tour's.

What are you doing here?

You've been crying?
What's wrong, Jo?

That homework
I did the other night...

The teacher said
I copied it from a book.

He said that?

I'll see the principal.

Are you crazy?
He'd never side with you.

I'd see the teacher.
Talk to him man to man.

He won't listen!

Forget it!

He's a horse's ass!

Come on...

Is this Fourachaux?

Yes, sir.
- Where's Jose Hassam?

Beyond the steps,
down below.

Thanks a lot.

You're wrong.

It's a gift from the boss
behind his back.

You've never seen anything
so fine, have you?

Welcome to Madame's

Look, she's getting


I swear to youl Look!

Think I could convince
the teacher?

Look! She bites
when she kisses me.

She says it's to make me
think of her.

The boss's wife?
- Herself!

One day,
she called, "Carmen!"

Wait! Listen!

I run...

wait at the door.

"Come in, Carmen!"

"Do you think my room
is pretty?"

Yes, Ma'am.

"I seem to recall you like
the ladies."

Just stories, Ma'am.

"Then... it's not true?"

"You don't like women?"

I didn't say that, Ma'am.

"But you know
you're seductive,"

and you appeal to them."

I don't know, Ma'am.

"Come closer... quickly!"

What is it, Hassam?

Tell him I made a mistake.

Come, Jose...

The teacher told me
your homework was fine.

See you tomorrow.

Real students are so rare.

That child's crazy!

I saw district super.

He heads the scholarship

Your grandma won't have to worry
about your schooling.

You'll get living
expenses, too.

Your grandma can see
the bursar.

Let's go in.

300 francs, Grandmal
I never saw so much money!

No more laundry!
No more ironing!

It's lucky they raised
your allowance.

To tell the truth,
I couldn't have gone on.

Tomorrow, God willing...

I'll see Mr. Singer,
the dressmaker.

He'll make you another suit.

Why go all that way
to the village?

Order it here.

No! We can't do that to poor
Mr. Singer.

And why enrich city folk
who can't even sew?

Mr. Singer needs
the money.

Could you be waiting
to see your shack?

What shack?
That toad-hole?

0.K. I'll deliver the laundry.

And I'll tell them you quit.

Ma Tine doesn't wash or iron
any more.

Ma Tine does no more

Ma Tine does no more

Remember to come for me
tomorrow night...

on the last trip.

Don't worry, I'll be here.

Kiss Tortilla and the rest!

Stop, thief!

See that? The thief...
That dog!

Those people are hopeless:

I really detest that race!

You shouldn't say that.

What? I tell you,
I hate them!

How can I be proud
of my color,

when I see those people
fouling up every day?

It disgusts mel

Anyway, except for my color,
I'm not black.

My character is white.

I'm sure no white ever yelled
"I hate my race",

when another white stole,
or even murdered...

Then why, for a trifle,

are you willing to condemn
all blacks?

You don't understand...

It hurts me so to see...

someone who's already black
do something bad.

Even for a trifle...

my impulse is to hurl my race
into the fire!

Then you'd never marry anyone
but a white?

At least my kids
would be light-skinned!

I have to meet my grandma.
Good bye, Miss Flora.

Get your paper! President
Paul Doumer assassinated!

Read all about it!

Don't worry, she must have
missed the boat.

She'll come tomorrow!

She's never done that!

I must get there!
- How? By swimming?

Don't worry...
Kiss her for me.

Did they give you
the message?

What message?

I called Carmen' bosses.

Didn't the maid tell him?

I got worried.
So Carmen brought me.

My little Jose.

What's wrong with you,

Yesterday, the body
was hot good at all.

I weeded around the shack.

I suddenly felt as if a big
stone had hit me, here.

But it's better now.

You don't feel anything?

Old people are like
old machines.

They keep going,
purely by routine!

And they can be stronger
than new ones, right?

Let's take a little stroll.

Help me, Tortilla.

My legs are still weak.

The postmistress
will scold you for being late.

So what?

Tobacco opens the mind,
doesn't it?

Good, isn't it?

Jose. Tortilla's fiance!

They arrested Leopold!

Which Leopold?
My friend, Leopold?

He came back and stole
Whitey's ledger!

No, that's not it!
He took the ledger...

so the police came for him.

I didn't want to tell you
right away.

Where is he?
- At the factory.

The watchman caught him
at4 am.

My dad said he took
the ledger to prove...

...Whitey's cheating us all.

They set the cops on him.
- Poor child!

Will you stay with
Ma Tine?

I'll be right back...
I must see him.

Murderer! What are you doing
to that child?

Let him go...
Whitey's niggers!

Martinique you suffer...

Life is fading away...

Young folk are regressing...

The men and the women...
are desperate...

Yet we all live simply...

What we lack is money...

And, as for justice...

Don't even mention it!

I crossed over the sea...
to go and see...

What was happening
in Guadaloupe...

Their suffering
is like ours!

This deep-rooted misery,

in our guts.

Who among us
can tear it out?

How terrible it is!

The people cry famine.

Life has become

in this land.

Yet life could be easy.

Money and justice...

are what's needed
to end our suffering.

She stopped breathing!

Go on and play outside.

Ma Tine has gone
to Mr. Medouze's Africa.

Tomorrow, I'll return
to Fort-de-France,

and I'll take my

Black Shack Alley with me.