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.
“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!