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Chimen an mwen (Mon chemin)

Documentaire, Feature length

Visueel van project Chimen an mwen (Mon chemin)
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Sunday, December 25, 2016
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Promote multiculturalism in France by funding Chimen an mwen (My Own Path), a documentary and a Carribbean tale.

Volgen en delen

Chimen an mwen (Mon chemin)

Mwen contan vwé zot (Welcome ! )

 

 

We are going through times during which France feels more threatened than ever in its own identity. Temptation grows to fall back on the so-called "French" values. However, France's colonial policy and its calls for foreign labor in the 1960s modified the characteristics of this country : today the French are multiple in their physical aspects and origins.

 

In this context, what are the possibilities for the French that embody that multiplicity to make their own « original » culture exist ? Can being bi- or multi-cultural be considered positively as a resource ? And how to talk about it ?

 

This film offers a fresh look to this burning topical issue. From the examples of the societies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, multicultural by nature, it aims at opening avenues for reflexion and future action.

 

I need your help me make a different, peaceful and reconciling voice heard.

 

Your financial contribution will allow me to complete the shooting of essential parts of the film. With my team, we need to go for a second shooting in Guadeloupe and Martinique in February 2017, during the carnival period.

 

Harry Eliézer, director

@Safharry14

 

Where did everything start from ?

 

Harry Eliézer, screenwriter and director of Chimen an mwen (which literally means « My Own Path ») is born in Paris of Gwadeloupean parents.

 

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Harry grew up in Essonne, a department of the Paris suburbs. Very early on, he faced discrimination, racial profiling and insults. Experiences that tended to make him understand that he was not a Frenchman in his own right. He then turned to Carribean culture, and what he supposed to be his roots. But over time, he realized that his parents did not know their own ancestors' nor their own island's history. According to the dominant culture and ideas, their ancestors would be Gauls ...

 

France, in its desire of carrying out its "civilizing task" in the colonies, had excluded from the school curricula any form of reference to history and culture existing prior to French presence. Creole language was banned at school.

 

The ignorance of their history has thus pushed generations of West Indians to act like puppets directed by unconscious forces of the past.

 

Harry Eliézer was 17 when the question of identity came to him in a crucial, brutal way : "My parents tell me I'm from continental France, but the look of others on me send me back to an exotic elsewhere. So who am I? "

 

From then, Eliézer interrogates music, history, psychoanalysis and literature. He also meets with uncles, aunts ... and manages to reassemble parts of the puzzle of his identity.

 

From his exchanges and encounters, in France and abroad, he understands that he is not the only one in his case, and that the question of identiy affects a large number of people from different cultures and backgrounds.

 

As the title states it, Chimen an mwen traces back Eliézer's path of reflection with a key, important place dedicated to music. Beyond a personal journey, this documentary aims at embracing the issues of identity and multiculturalism in their broadest perspective.

 

In a nutshell, the key question tacked by the movie is : "Is it possible to become a healthy and balanced, mature person, without well knowing about your own history and origins, and by privileging one of your two cultures over the other?”

 

Synopsis

 

As many others of his generation, Harry's identity is in a no-man's land : he was born in France, but many things make him feel that he is not French, because he is not white. His parents, Guadeloupean immigrants, took care not to transmit him the Creole culture, for fear of jeopardizing his integration. But in the name of what should intergration mean the desintegration of one's origins ? Through a journey to the land of his ancestors, Harry intends to embrace the history of his ancestors, his traditions. Doing so, he hopes to put an end to the absurd cleavage between the who he is and who people expect him to be. His goal ? Become a hundred per cent Guadeloupeand and a hundred per cent Metropolitan (as from continental France). Then, Harry will finally be in measure to pass on his culture to his children …

 

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Telling a Carribbean tale

 

In the Caribbean tradition, children are educated through tales, be it about history and ancestors, as well about how to tell good from evil. It is also that way that they are told about the importance of life. But the storyteller is not just for children: at one time he was even one of the most important figures in society, together with the priest and the teacher. He remains present in all the great moments of life: births, marriages, burials ... and represents the wisdom, the voice of the ancestors who gives to their descendants the teachings that are necessary for their life.

 

The “Yé krik ?!! / Yé krak !” call-and-response gives the storyteller the right to begin. From time to time, he can also check that he still has his audience's attention by asking “Est-ce que la court dort?” (“is the court asleep?”), which is to be answered “no it's not !!” if the audience want's to here what's next.

 

And then begins the story of this trip to the West Indies ...

 

“Chimen an mwen”

 

The title of the film is inspired by the song “Chimen an mwen” by Dominik Coco.

 

 

This song tells the story of a Ka (traditional drum) player, who takes the road in order to find his own authenticity and personality. Despite the misunderstanding of his parents, it seems essential, even vital, to take this step towards his culture, in his own way, making his own path.

 

« The first hearing of this song was a shock for me. Beyond the voices and the drums that were shaking me, the lyrics put precise words on a necessity that I shared. I had to leave. I had to go back there, no longer as a tourist like when I was a child or a teenager, but as a Guadeloupean determined to make his own particular culture exist in him.” Eliézer says.

 

Narrative thread

 

Seen from continental France, Guadeloupe is a department like any other, and many of those who approach it do it with continental French codes. But once you get there, everything changes: abundant and luxuriant nature, nights and their noises, history, culture ... I decided to immerse myself in this other world in order to live it more intensely, and enter more deeply in Guadeloupe's culture and traditions. The goal being to discover everything that has not been transmitted to me.

 

1. The omnipresence of God

 

One of the things that strike you immediately when you go to Guadeloupe is the place given to God, in every word. When you arrive, you hear: "Thank God, you made a good journey." Furthermore, is there a better way to pass for a tourist over ther than to say "To-morrow ..." by omitting to add "... if God wants"?

 

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More than religion, it is God who is everywhere. It strikes me because I grew up in the Metropole, where God is out of the public sphere. In continental France, God remains in the private sphere, in the intimacy and again ... I do not usually say his name at any moment. So I decide to take the opportunity of being here to understand why things happen so here, and I go to mass …

 

Experimenting mass in Guadeloupe can be surprising for visitors. The church is full of young, old and young. All ages are shown. The atmosphere is very different too. Speaking with the prieast, I try to understand why it is so. As a good Cartesian raised in Europe, I can't help but go to interview an ethnologist to hear how a scientist sees all this.

 

2. Creole, a language that binds society together

 

Having forgotten to put flip-flops in my suitcase, I find myself in search of this indispensable element on the island. Of my various interactions in shops, one definetly that stands out: my encounter with Mr. Sarkis, of Lebanese descent, whose family settled on the island in 1894. His grandfather was going to Puerto Rico by boat, and had to make a stop in Guadeloupe. There, he falls in love with a young Lebanese woman, already residing on the island. Farewell, Puerto Rico! Farewell, the United States! He will never leave the island again. Mr. Sarkis is the second generation of this family that was born on the island. He's a Guadeloupean and speaks with a Creole accent. When he heres mine, he laughs at me. With him, I understand that it is not the color of your skin that defines your belonging to the Guadeloupean community : it is above all the Creole language and culture.

 

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Creole language was created to enable the various populations of Guadeloupe's society to understand each other. Although slaves are often spoken of as if they were a uniform entity, coming from the same place, and being from the same background, they actually were from different countries, spoke different languages, and had various customs. From their meetings with the Europeans (French, Portuguese, English, Dutch ...) were born the different types of Creole. Languages practiced by both slaves and settlers.

Also, I decide to improve my Creole and my relationship to this language : I take courses and go meet various characters in order to learn more about this language and what it carries.

 

3. Culture and traditions

 

Death, a festival ?

 

It's about 10 pm at night and I decide to stop at a funeral vigil. A few days before, the time and place had been announced on the radio obituary.

 

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Here we are in Pointe-Noire (on the west coast of Basse Terre). From afar you can hear songs and drums. I come closer, and read an inscription "mortuary house". I entered the courtyard and found the family of the deceased. Many people are present. There are smiles, some have a beer or a glass of rum in hand, others a bowl of soup or a dish of rice with chicken. A band plays drums and sings. No, no, you do not dreaming, what unites all these people is a funeral.

 

The Carnival

 

The Carnival is one of the few great festive periods that is not religious and for which young and not so young are preparing almost all year. Floats and dancers go through a new town every week. Effervescence is absolute, and this celebration is the moment to indulge in all excesses because afterwards come Lent and then Easter. People wander the streets with costumes, masks, music is everywhere. I did't want to miss this!

 

Meeting with Jean-Claude Malo

 

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My father takes me to one of his friends: Jean-Claude Malo. He speaks frankly, rejects any type of corruption and wishes to work for the common good, driven by his Christian convictions. Rather than to promise the moon to his citizens, he has tried to gain their support by trying to present a realistic, long-term project. He campaigned about the need to see Guadeloupe's society differently, and the need to restructure the economy of the city of Bouillante. The people of Bouillante – that we call Bouillantais here - seem to have preferred a more "promising" discourse : Jean-Claude Malo was not re-elected. And it seems like he chose to remain faithful to his ideas rather than winning the election. Of course, I wanted to meet such a person, and try to understand more aboute the political and economic situation of the island, as well as the reason of his electoral defeat.

 

Encounter with Elie Domota

 

I have already interviewed Elie Domota several times for the French website Slate.fr. He is the spokesperson for the LKP, a movement created in 2009 during an incredible uprising that led 100,000 people in the streets to protest against corruption and outrageous exploitation. That is a quarter of the total population of the island. Today, the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP) no longer moves such crowds. However, the extreme exploitation of a large part of the population, based on a social order dating from the 17th century, still exists. Does Domota's struggle still make sense?

 

5. Making peace with my owh history, common sense ?

 

The last stage of my journey and not the least, consists of lifting the veil on my family's history and that of Guadeloupe. My parents do not know anything about the history of this island since at school they were taught the history of continental France, and this famous phrase "Our ancestors were Gauls". In my research, I discover with surprise that among my ancestors are Indians from India and White settlers, most probably slave owners. Which means I eventually might have a Gaul ancestor. Me Harry, who always thought I was the "son" of a slave, understood that I also had the blood of a slave owner who flowed in me. I then decided to plan a confusing and surprising encounter …

 

The team

Film making and screenwriting

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Chimen an mwen (My Own Path) is the first film by Harry Eliézer. First working as an accountant, he then gave it up to pursue his passion : Radio. Harry started at a local radio from Annecy, and then orked for Radio France (France Bleue, 107.7 and France Inter shows Je t'aime pareil and L'heure ultramarine). He was also a commentator for France 3 Rhône-Alpes Auvergne, and wrote for the French website Slate.fr. He teaches public speaking, media and audiovisual media at the University of Caen.

 

Sound

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Antoine Corbin has been a sound engineer for more than fifteen years, and worked on numerous fiction shootings filming (including Ni le Ciel ni la Terre). He is a former student of FEMIS where he teaches. By chance, he once crossed Harry's path, and was immediately embarked on the adventure.

 

Image

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After studying at Sciences Po and a Master in Creative Documentary Production (Lussas), Jérémy Trouilh has directed several short films (Monsieur Caillou, Gagarine, La République des enchanteurs) who have toured in numerous festivals. Jeremy also shot several commercials and music videos. He is currently working on a documentary project in Colombia, Derrière la ligne noire, produced like Chimen an mwen by Pays des Miroirs and Tell Me Films. He also wrote his first feature film, co-directed with Fanny Liatard and produced by Haut et Court. For Chimen an mwen, Jeremy accompanies Harry as the director of photography.

 

Production

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After a long training in several production companies such as the Groupe de Recherche et d'Essais Cinématographiques (G.R.E.C) and Films Atalante, Eric Jarno worked for six years alongside Christian Zarifian and Jean Gaumy for Seine-Océan Films. He held every position of film production and contributed to the creation of the Studio movie theater in Le Havre. In 2007 he created the association Pays des Miroirs, and has since produced eleven creative documentaries including Avenue Rivadavia by Christine Seghezzi (official selection at the Festival Cinema du Réel in 2013) and Against the tide in 2012 about boat-people in the Mediterranean. In 2013, with Laurent Alary, he created the Tell Me Films production company. All his films are now co-produced by the two structures. From 1993 to 2010, Eric Jarno has also directed four short fiction movies.

Since 1996, Eric Jarno teaches writing and staging to students in Performing Arts at the University of Caen, in Normandy. In 2012 he created a Master's degree specifically dedicated to film and audiovisual production in the same university. Since 2015, he is the co-founder and treasurer of the Association of Cinematographic and Audiovisual Producers of Normandy with Gerald Leroux (Tarmak Films) and Samuel Moutel (Keren Production).

Waar dient de collecte voor

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Six months ago, Harry Eliézer went to Guadeloupe for a first shooting with Jeremy Trouilh (photography) and Antoine Corbin (sound). Eliézer's first project has now matured, as shown in the trailer of the movie, that opens beautiful perspectives.

 

The team is now raising public and private funds and contacting TV channels and distributors (France O, ARTE, France 5 ...).

 

The budget of the 90 minutes movie is now estimated around 140 000 euros. With the contributions of the delegated producers and the support of the Normandy Region, we have gathered 30% of the budget to date, which fully served for the first filming session and the making of the trailer.

 

Funding resources

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Today, we need you to help us fund a second shooting and finish the project in good conditions.

 

If we raise sufficient funds to fullfill our goal on Kisskiss Bankbank, we will be able to fund :

 

- Transportation, housing and food for the team during the second shooting

- Rental video cameras, batteries, memory cards, lights, audio recording instruments …

- Salaries of the technical team (three people for two weeks)

- Great goodies in exchange of your donations !

 

If you made us able to raise up to ...

 

- 30 000 euros : we would fund a third shooting in Europe with Harry's family.

- 60 000 euros : we would be able to finish image editing

- 80 000 euros : it would also fund sound mixing and coulour grading

 

Thank you so much in advance for your support and we hope to meet you in theaters when the movie will be out !

 

chimenanmwen.com

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