Tag Archives: Caribbean film

What academics do over the summer ‘holidays’

Le temps passe vite…!

Well, this post is a round-up of recent June-July activities, and another opportunity to set the record straight about what academics do during the summer ‘holiday’. Although the Undergraduate students have mostly left campus, the Postgraduates are still around and we continue to supervise them… and I have been so busy that I realise now that this blog is long due an update! So here goes:

I’ve been juggling a number of projects these last few weeks. Firstly, we brought our series of Francophone Postcolonial film screenings to a close with a public workshop reflecting on what we’d done. It was a chance to unpick the terms ‘francophone’ and ‘postcolonial’ with members of the general public, and we were delighted to have teachers and A Level students present, as well as others who are interested in some or all of the terms Francophone / Postcolonial / Film. This rounded off our film series with some very positive feedback and ideas for future developments!

Then it was off to York, to present at the inaugural AHRC Commons event, which brought together academics and organisations including charities, businesses and educational bodies to showcase and discuss how Arts & Humanities research contributes to bring about real world impact and societal change. My talk was a co-presentation called ‘When Mockingbird met French Studies…’ delivered with my collaborator at Mockingbird, an SME at Birmingham’s Custard Factory. We discussed our work together screening Francophone Postcolonial films to date, and in future, and shared advice and best practice on our experiences. We were thrilled to see that our fantastic image of the Mockingbird was chosen to head up the Collaborate section of the programme for the AHRC Commons: (see p.3).

Since then, I’ve been sequestered away and writing my book about Zobel, as well as supervising dissertation students, mentoring a postdoctoral researcher, supervising a postdoctoral Research Assistant, attending meetings and training courses, making preparations for a conference in the US in the autumn, advising potential future PhD students, preparing module paperwork, preparing bids for more work with non-academic partners… the list goes on…!

So all in all, it has been a very busy end to the academic year, and certainly not a ‘holiday’! The summer is the time when we push forward with lots of projects that are either in progress or in the pipeline! And it continues… but more about that next time!


Francophone Postcolonial Films & Free Workshop

Another busy few weeks – last week, my colleague Dr Claire Peters and I organised a free Francophone Postcolonial film screening of Sissako’s Heremakono, as part of Claire’s AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund activities.

Claire has blogged about it for the UoB website, and you can read more here:


mockingbird all 3.jpg

We’re now gearing up for our final event, a workshop on Francophone Postcolonial Film to be held this Saturday at Mockingbird Theatre in the Custard Factory, Digbeth. Here are more details:


Held: Sat 11th June between 10am – 12 noon Mockingbird Theatre, Custard Factory, Digbeth

Participants are welcome to leave after 12 noon, or to enjoy a free post-workshop lunch in the Mockingbird’s informal bistro (meat or veg. option available)


This morning workshop offers an insight into cinema from other cultures. Together, we will explore some key terms and briefly discuss three important films that two Modern Languages researchers have recently shown to the Birmingham public: Sugar Cane Alley, Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask, and Waiting for Happiness.

No prior knowledge of the films is necessary!

Come and think about what these films and cultural questions mean to you, and share these thoughts in an informal and friendly setting, guided by researchers who work in these fields.

The workshop will be relevant to anyone with interests in ONE or MORE of these topics: Film, Postcolonial cultures (particularly Africa and the Caribbean), French & Francophone cultures.

The event has been generously funded by an AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellowship award.

*Places are limited, so please reserve you place now to avoid disappointment*

Book your free place here: http://www.designmynight.com/birmingham/bars/digbeth/the-mockingbird-theatre-and-bar/free-workshop-francophone-postcolonial-film

Sugar Cane Alley screening in Leeds this Sat

In today’s blog post, I’ve included excerpts from a blog post by Dr Emily Marshall, Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature in the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, with Emily’s kind permission.

Emily and I first met by pure coincidence at a postcolonial literature conference in 2006 here in the UK. It’s a day I remember well, and it was such a pleasure to talk to Emily about her grandfather’s work! Through Emily, I met her mother Jenny, and I have been honoured to be their ‘virtual’ colleague throughout the centenary year – we’ve exchanged lots of emails and electronic messages to keep each other updated on our activities.

Emily and Jenny will give a special introduction before screening the film Sugar Cane Alley at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday night. I’m sure it will be a very special event! I’ve been tweeting details (@zobelproject) for a couple of weeks, and you can buy tickets here: http://www.leedsfilm.com/films/sugar-cane-alley/

In a blog post which originally appeared on the Leeds Beckett University “Media Centre” blog, Emily reflects on the forthcoming screening of a film based on her grandfather Joseph Zobel’s novel, La Rue Cases-Nègres.

Emily writes:

“It is a hundred years since the birth of my grandfather, Martinican writer Joseph Zobel. While celebrations and events (in the form of conferences, workshops, commissioned art pieces and museum exhibitions) have been taking place across France, the Francophone Caribbean and French-speaking West Africa, Joseph and his novels are less well known in the UK. I wanted to contribute to the international centenary celebrations here in Leeds with the screening of an exceptional film based on his most famous semi-autobiographical novel, La Rue Cases-Nègres (1950), translated as Black Shack Alley or Sugar Cane Alley.

Sugar Cane Alley (1983) was directed by Martinican-born Euzhan Palcy when she was just 25 years old. The film won the Silver Lion award for Best First Film at the 1983 Venice International Film Festival and a César Award for Best First Feature Film in France. Palcy went on to become the first black female director of a Hollywood film for A Dry White Season (1989). With the support of the Center for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett University, I worked in partnership with event organiser and film programmer for Leeds Film Festival, Laura Ager, to organise the screening. We also submitted a successful bid for the screening to be added to the ‘Being Human National Festival of the Humanities’ calendar of events.

I have only recently introduced Joseph’s novel, Black Shack Alley, alongside Palcy’s film, to my students. We examined the text on my third-year ‘Literatures of the African Diaspora’ module at Leeds Beckett – I had long been worried that my relationship to Joseph would not allow me enough critical distance to analyse his work. I was surprised by how objective I could be and also by the many positive responses and insights from my students, who enabled me to look at the novel and film from a fresh perspecive.

I am very excited about the screening of Sugar Cane Alley in Leeds as part of Leeds Film Festival and I hope it will promote debates about the impact of colonialism and colonial education, resistance to oppression, Creole culture and the effects of Empire in the postcolonial world. I also hope it will raise awareness of the impact and relevance of film and narrative on reflecting on our shared histories and influencing the way we understand our past and visualise our futures.”

You can read Emily’s longer post here: http://mediacentre.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/post/a-caribbean-childhood-sugar-cane-alley-comes-to-leeds/

I’m excited to hear more about this really important event!

Back from the USA

I have just arrived back from Atlanta, and then went to Swindon last week to be filmed by the AHRC for a video on research funding  which is aimed at Early Career Researchers. It’s always nervewracking being filmed, particularly when it’s about subjects such as ‘the application process’, so I hope my answers will be honest and helpful guidelines for others. More on that when the film is ready…

I’ve also been busy Tweeting (@zobelproject) my support for a very exciting UK Zobel event – a film screening of Sugar Cane Alley which will be held at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 14th November, with a special introduction by the author’s daughter, Jenny, and granddaughter, Emily! Here’s the link: http://www.leedsfilm.com/films/sugar-cane-alley/

Jenny and Emily have been very supportive of my own research, and I encourage anyone in the Leeds area next Saturday to head to the screening! I’ll blog about that a little more in the coming days!

And then I’ve been reading and writing! I have produced this account of my activities for the University of Birmingham online news pages, so I’ll leave you with this:

Dr Louise Hardwick has just returned from a Visiting Fellowship at Emory University, Atlanta, as part of her AHRC-funded research project into Joseph Zobel.

The Visiting Fellowship was crucial to Louise’s reframing of Zobel as an author whose importance transcends the Caribbean region: the issues of race, diversity and post-slavery identity which are central to his work find particular resonance in the American South.

Emory University is recognized internationally for its outstanding liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools, and its scholars and experts generate more than $572 million in research funding annually, while also maintaining a traditional emphasis on teaching. The city of Atlanta is itself an important location for the study of civil and human rights, and is the birthplace of Martin Luther King.

At Emory, Louise worked alongside experts in African American Studies and Caribbean Studies. She met with graduate students, and taught classes on Joseph Zobel and Francophone Caribbean literature. Louise also gave a research seminar on Zobel’s publication Laghia de la mort, and continued to draft her forthcoming monograph on Zobel.

While in Atlanta, Louise also collaborated with colleagues at Georgia Institute of Technology, a leading research and teaching institute, where she was invited to give classes and a research seminar at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts which had just celebrated its 125th Anniversary.

This Academic Life – June

The end of June is traditionally what we often refer to as “conference season”. I have just returned from speaking on Joseph Zobel at the annual Society for French Studies conference, which was held this year in Wales at the University of Cardiff.

Academic papers are usually about 20 minutes long, with time for questions afterwards from the audience. My conference panel was responding to the theme of “Translating Cultures”, one of the “themes” the conference announced in its call for paper submissions back in 2014 (yup, you need to submit months in advance, so it takes some organizing). My paper was called “Translating Rhythms, Translating Zobel” and I examined the short story ‘Laghia de la mort’ which is about a combat dance, considering it in the light of recent scholarship around Caribbean music and dance, notably by scholar Martin Munro, and also drawing on earlier critics such as the Martinican musicologist Jacqueline Rosemain.

Then I rushed back to Birmingham for the Society of Caribbean Studies annual conference at the cultural centre The Drum. In a happy coincidence, I met a colleague there from Japan, Professor Yoshiko Shibata, who explained to me that she shows the film Rue Cases-Negres to her anthropology students at Kobe University. I’ve blogged before about this project’s (sometimes unexpected) connections with Japan – here’s another one, which reminds us of the value of Zobel as a global ambassador for Martinique.

Race In The Americas (RITA) Future Spaces Conference

I’m just back from the fascinating RITA Future Caribbean Spaces conference, held here at the University of Birmingham. My paper considered the ways politics and culture intersect in the film Nèg maron and the Manifeste pour les ‘produits’ de haute nécessité, reading them in the context of the 2009 General Strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique. For a full run-down of topics discussed throughout the day, see the RITA twitter feed. Huge thanks to the organisers James Heath,  Adunni Adams and Pat Noxolo for a fantastically stimulating day.