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Getting to know Euzhan Palcy

Euzhan Palcy on set, directing
20 Sep 2019
3 min read

Although she won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and directed Marlon Brando to an Oscar nomination, filmmaker and director Euzhan Palcy’s work remains neglected in the UK, and her films are rarely shown. Here are three things you should know about the director.

1. French filmmaker François Truffaut was her ‘French godfather’

French filmmaker François Truffaut was her ‘French godfather’. After reading the screenplay for ‘Sugar Cane Alley (1983), the French New Wave director encouraged Euzhan to make the film. Shot for less than  $1,000,000 and filmed in Palcy’s homeland Martinique, it remains one of cinema’s great coming-of-age films, about a mischievous orphan and his indomitable grandmother. Palcy subtly criticises French colonial rule throughout the film.


2. In 1989, Euzhan Palcy became the first black woman to direct a major studio movie

with the apartheid thriller ‘A Dry White Season), starring Donald Sutherland, Susan Sarandon and Marlon Brando.  Palcy travelled to South Africa, defying the special section of the apartheid regime with the help of Dr Nthato Motlana, Nelson Mandela’s personal physician and friend, who smuggled her into Soweto undercover.


3. Euzhan Palcy’s mentor was author and civil rights activist Aimé Césaire

Césaire was a French poet, author and politician from the region of Martinique. He was also one of the founders of the Négritude movement in Francophone literature, a product of black writers joining together through the French language to assert their cultural identity.


This October, we showcase the work of accomplished Martinique director, Euzhan Palcy as part of Hidden Figures; a programme showcasing great directors who deserve greater recognition in the UK. These screenings are in partnership with HOME in Manchester, who are also showcasing Euzhan Palcy’s films as part of their year-long Celebrating Women in Global Cinema season.

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