Film Review: Sugar Cane Alley
It is hard to tell if the film “Sugar Cane Alley” is based on the life of the director who is from the city of Martinique, which is the setting of the film, or directly from the book which the movie follows. Either way we are given a good look at the side of Martinique that is easily missed. Most people see the French Colony as a vacation destination partly depicted by the post cards at the very beginning of the film but not everyone knows the story of exploitation that was committed by the French colonists, nor is much light shown on the darker ideas of neocolonialism. This exploitation tool place in many different places and not just in the Caribbean. For example the plantation system in the film is much like the compound systems that were used in Southern Rhodesia as examined by Charles Van Onselen in his book. The main goal of these systems is to gain large profits through the use of cheap labor which is provided by the natives of European colonies. Many tactics were used by the neocolonists to extend the labor cycle and prevent these workers from any personal gains in order to keep from losing any of their labor force. In Sugar Cane Alley we follow the journey of a young boy who lives with his grandmother who knows that education is one of the only and very few ways to escape the life of work that everyone in black shack alley has endured. Jose’s pursuit of education, the second key to freedom, reflects how the neocolonial system provides no way for the lower rungs of the society to honor their own culture and escape the long lasting feeling of oppression and labor, with no substantial self-gain or economic independence.
Van Onselen’s examination of the compound system in Southern Rhodesia shows many similarities with what’s seen in Sugar Cane Alley. Both are neocolonial systems that thrive off the exploitation of the vulnerable people who live in the colonies where these...
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