Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Euzhan Palcy shines the sun on dark spaces

Women's History Month
If the sun shone at night many thieves would be discovered. (Africa)

Euzhan Palcy ((1958 - )

Euzhan Palcy's "Sugar Cane Alley" grabbed my heart when I first saw it, and each of the two or three other times I have watched it. I feel as if I know the children, the grandmother, the sugar cane plantation, the boy who leaves the plantation to go to town to get an education. Besides, Palcy is able to draw extraordinary performances from previously unknown actors. This is one film that I prefer to the book.

Euzhan Palcy is rare in her field. She is a Black female director, a Caribbean woman who was born in Martinique. "Sugar Cane Alley" was her first film. It cost less than US$1million to shoot, and it was an immediate hit in the early 1980s when it was made. This film won more than seventeen international awards, including one for Best Lead Actress for the 76-year-old who played the role of the grandmother. It also won the French equivalent of an Academy Award for best feature film.

More people may have seen or heard of Palcy's "Dry White Season", a 1989 movie starring Marlon Brando, Donald Sutherland, and Susan Sarandon. With this movie, Palcy became the first Black female film director produced by a major Hollywood studio.The story is about South Africa and the Soweto uprising, and Palcy researched her material by going to Soweto undercover.

Brando was so impressed with Palcy's sincerity and her social conscience, that he agreed to act in the movie without charging a fee. He received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Not long after "Dry White Season" was released, Nelson Mandela personally welcomed Palcy to South Africa. The late Senator Ted Kennedy also thanked Palcy for making this film that was so successful in giving a face to the injustice of apartheid.

Brando’s performance in the movie earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and he received the Best Actor Award at the Tokyo Film Festival. Palcy received the “Orson Welles Award” in Los Angeles, and a few months after the release of the film, Nelson Mandela welcomed her South Africa.

"Ruby Bridges" (1998) is a Palcy film that tells the story of a New Orleans girl who was the first to integrate public schools in her city. President Bill Clinton introduced that film to US television audiences.

Palcy's most recent film, "Veterans' Journey" unearthed the story of teenage boys and girls who left their French Caribbean homes to join in defending France in World War II. Because of Palcy's efforts, the French government finally recognised the bravery and sacrifice of these young people. In 2009, President Sarkozy honored them with an award of the French Legion of Honor. He also made Palcy an "Officer in the National Order of Merit", a signal honor. Before that, she had been honored by French Presidents Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.

If you want to check out one film maker's passion for social justice and compassion for humanity, have a look at a Palcy film. You can start with "Sugar Cane Alley" if you haven't yet seen it. Let me know what you think.


Gelede said...

Yvonne Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea about the work she has been doing! I will definitely get the library to buy her films so that I can use them in my classes. I like the direction your blog is taking.

walk good,


Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

I am so very happy to know you plan to use Euzhan's work with your classes. She one extraordinary woman let alone film director.

Thanks also for your encouraging feedback.



Anonymous said...

Euzhan Play will be the special guest of the 6th Annual Reel ♀ event April 6 - 7, 2010

A Dry White Season will be screened at Spelman College on April 6th with a conversation with the filmmaker.

Anonymous said...

Euzhan Palcy will be the special guest of the 6th Annual Reel ♀ event April 6 - 7, 2010

A Dry White Season will be screened at Spelman College on April 6th with a conversation with the filmmaker.

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Thanks much for the info on Euzhan Palcy's appearance at Spelman. I will be happy to circulate it for those close enough and fortunate enough to attend.



When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at