Guest Post: Elza - A Different Kind of Movie with a French Caribbean Twist

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by Mariette Monpierre
April 9, 2012 10:16 AM
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When I was in the advertising business I enjoyed producing powerful commercials, but at the same time I felt there was something missing.  I yearned to tell my stories - to capture life about the people and places close to me, from my viewpoint. 

As a little girl growing up on the island of Guadeloupe my aunt worked at the local cinema so I constantly went to the movies. After we moved to Paris, every Saturday my mother would take me to see American movies, so it was natural that I developed a passion for film as well as American pop culture. When I saw Manhattan by Woody Allen, I made up my mind I would move to New York to make films. After graduating from the Sorbonne University in Paris, I was awarded a scholarship to Smith College in Massachusetts for graduate studies, and eventually made it to the Big Apple to follow my dream.

After seeing Sweet Mickey for President? a portrait of Michel Martelly (currently the President of Haiti) win the Best Documentary award at the 2002 Reel Sisters Film Festival in NY, I felt ready for my first feature.  My film ELZA (Le Bonheur d’Elza) gives a voice to the people of my community in Guadeloupe.   We never see ourselves on the big screen, so when the film was released in in both Guadeloupe and Martinique, the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  While those audiences identified with the characters, Elza is a universal story told within the context of a Caribbean culture.

The film is partly autobiographical. Elza leaves Paris to return to her native island of Guadeloupe in search of the father she has never known. She wants to see his eyes. She longs for a warm hug. The rest of the story is fictional, but it is rings true for many children around the world who have grown up without a father and who feel a deep emptiness within them. This film gives a voice to fatherless children.

Elza captures a culture and lifestyle most Americans know little about.  Hopefully, the images make you want to travel to Guadeloupe and discover its beautiful people. The film has played at several film major festivals in the United States and around the world. Elza is the first narrative film by a Guadeloupean female director, so it was very humbling to win three awards at the Pan African Festival in Los Angeles.   The film was also nominated at the Africa Movie Academy Awards 2012 Prize for Best Diaspora film and at the French Afro-Caribbean Arts Award 2011 for Best Feature.

I am honored that the New York Premiere of Elza will take place at the New York African Film Festival at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.  If you would like to be moved by a different kind of film that is compelling, ignites your senses and is visually exotic, come discover Elza.

Screening info: Thursday, April 12th @ 4:00 pm and Sunday, April 15th @ 6:15 pm.  Buy tickets here.

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