Alright, so the original title of Sugar Cane Alley is Rue Cases-Nègres, which means it's French -- so the fact that the film swept the César Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) when it was released in 1983 might not mean that much, because French people are snooty and speak a language that doesn't make any sense. Still, if there's a movie worth reading subtitles for, it's Sugar Cane Alley, Euzhan Palcy's beautiful coming-of-age story about a boy trying to escape the assured fate of the oppressive sugar-cane industry of the 1930s in French Martinique. And it certainly doesn't hurt that it's free.
The scene above, wherein an old sugar cane worker tells José, the main character, stories of Africa, is a pivotal one; José will later submit those stories in the form of an essay to a costly private school, only to be accused of plagiarism because of the essay's eloquence. And in 1930s Martinique, where the only work is in sugar cane -- an industry that basically amounts to slave labor -- and a hard-to-get education is the only way to get ahead, it's an accusation that could cost him everything.
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The film screens tonight at 6 p.m. at the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library as part of its "Seldom Screened: Black Directors" series. Admission is free, and popcorn and drinks are included.