She has already won the Cesar for her film released in 1983, “Rue Case Nègres” and the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. A few weeks ago, the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers of France awarded him its medal of honor. And now an honorary Oscar… Euzhan Palcy never ceases to shine. Martinique can be proud of her!
You will be the second black woman, after Cicely Tyson, to be honored with the Academy’s Governors Award Oscar. Can we say “Finally! knowing that a few weeks ago, you were recognized among the 100 women of Culture in France?
Euzhan Palcy. I do not create to have prices. Of course it’s always nice when you make a film, when you work so hard, to be recognized by your family. It means people on the outside like what I do. My films have won several awards in other countries, it means to me that people like what I do and understand my films and it encourages me to do more. And now the Academy is calling to tell me that I’m going to receive an honorary Oscar. Of course I’m delighted!
In your native town of Gros Morne, a college bears your name. By next year, a mosaic dedicated to your work will be placed on the town hall. What does that do to you and inspire you?
I have a lot of respect for this mayor, (Gilbert Couturier) who takes risks by doing something else. It’s a real Gros-Mornais (laughs), very close to those who have nothing. He is a true spiritual son of Aimé Césaire. Gros-Morne has given birth to many personalities and artists, such as Aristide Maugée (philosopher and essayist), William Palcy (Companion of the Liberation)the musicians Sully Cally and Fernand Marlu, footballer Christophe Hérelle (currently defender at Stade Brestois)… So, being part of this mosaic is an honor that I receive with great joy and humility because it is my commune, that of my parents. I have certainly received many awards but when it comes from you, it is more significant than any other award.
In view of your filmography, you produce little. Is it a will?
If there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure of, it’s that God put me on earth for one reason: to make films. Obviously it’s not a desire not to produce, it’s a choice I made because I was offered stories that had nothing to do with me, us, and that was unbearable… Especially when I was told “ black stories don’t sell, nobody cares “. It was very humiliating for me, for all of us, for the diaspora, the diversities. My films were refused because the main characters were black AND female.
And yet you persisted…
I decided to step aside until things changed, because I was convinced that the wheel would turn. What is happening today is the confirmation that I was right not to jump with both feet into what was being offered to me. If I did it would mean that I was selling my soul, that I was betraying my ideals. but it’s not because I haven’t made films that I haven’t worked. I trained young filmmakers who make films today. I wrote scenarios telling myself that I want to be ready when the wheel turns, unless God decides that I have to stop. This moment has arrived since the death of George Floyd, this poor brother. He is a martyr. His death created an upheaval at the level of the authorities in the United States. That’s when people started to see us, things started to change. The blacks have become bankables “.
That’s to say ?
It became a race for who wants the best black project, with female characters in leading roles… When you see “Black Panther”, “The Woman King”… I am happy to have made this choice, but this It’s not easy to have done what I’ve done for all these years. But you have to know how to take responsibility for your choices.
In the introduction to your website, you write that you try to heal the wounds of history through your camera…? What do you think of the protest movements that surrounded the unbolting of statues in Martinique and the United States?
When the people speak and ask and we turn a deaf ear and well what does it do? This creates movements of violence. They were right to protest against these statues which represented torturers, people who did a lot of harm to these populations. On the other hand, that we tear down these statues yes, but put them in a museum with explanations of why they were moved. I wouldn’t have slaughtered them. Because when you destroy them, that means there are no more traces, there is no more history at all. We must always project ourselves into the future.
What do you think of Caribbean cinema and more particularly in Martinique?
When we talk about Martinican cinema, we have to think carefully. Is it in the same way as when we speak of Italian, Cuban, Japanese cinema? That implies real production structures, training centers for actors, writing workshops to train our screenwriters so that they talk about us, our history but in a universal way and that these films travel. It begins. Guadeloupe has structures, Martinique is putting them in place. Unless you ask for external funding when you have everything you need on site to produce, there is therefore a problem. It is up to us to continue to fight so that a Martinican, Guadeloupean, Guyanese cinema exists.
Have you been asked to support young local directors?
No. I have never been asked to accompany young directors, but I have always done so when they ask me for advice on the script or on the method. I have always done this work in a personal, underground way since I became a filmmaker. I never communicated on “who” I helped. Guadeloupe wishes to give my name to a structure, Martinique that I join a team of professionals to organize teaching. I can’t say more, but it starts for the formation of a new generation.
What are your short term projects?
There are (laughs) but I don’t like to talk about them too much in advance. These are stories that concern us and that will be filmed in Martinique, the Caribbean, Africa and the United States. They are just waiting for funding. Money is the sinews of war, isn’t it?