Thursday, June 20, 2013

Aluku Liba: Maroon Again [2009]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Official Website

Aluku Liba: Maroon Again [2009] (written and directed by Nicolas Jolliet) played recently at the 11th Chicago African Diaspora Film Festival at Facets Multimedia in Chicago.

It's a fictionalize story of Loeti (played by Loeti Mais) a black man from French Guiana who had left his home village long ago to seek his fortune working as a garimpiero (gold-miner) dredging gold from the mud of the rivers of the rivers of the French Guianese part of the Amazon rain forest.

After a raid by French troops on the illegal gold mine where he was working, he's forced to flee into the forest.  His subsequent journey leads him to appreciate the beauty of the forest beyond the camps where he had worked.  He encounters various exotic birds and animals as well an Ameri-Indian who saves him at a critical point in his journey.  Finally by the river again, he runs into a fellow Afro-SouthAmerican named Captain Laurence (played by Laurence Alota) who takes him then with his boat to the Aluku village where he lives.

The Aluku or Boni people are descendants of self-liberated former slaves from French Guiana and neighboring Suriname.  Once free in the jungles of French Guiana / Suriname, they kept much of their original West African culture.  Needless to say, they have remained very suspicious of European encroachment.  However, for the most part, especially in French Guiana, they have been left in peace.

I first read about similar communities of self-liberated former slaves while stationed at a then Servite parish in Kissimmee, FL, a parish with a primarily Caribbean Catholic population including a substantial Haitian contingent.  

It turns out that similar communities of self-liberated former slaves like the Aluku people of French Guiana/Suriname have existed across the whole of the Americas where slavery once held sway.  In Jamaica they have been called Maroons, in Brazil Quilombos.  Even in the United States in the Gulf Coast regions of the South East (Alabama, Mississippi and Florida) in the 1820s, prior to the subjugation of this territory by the U.S. military, there were communities of self-liberated slaves called the Black Seminoles.

I have also been involved in the translation of a book published by the Servites of Brazil called "The Amazonia That we do not know" which made mention of the Quilombos in its Introduction (the Quilombos of Brazil live in a different part of the Amazon Region from where the Servites generally work) and devoted an entire chapter to the Garimpieros (gold miners) of the Amazon region.

Hence I made it a point to see this film when I read the summary of it by the 2013 Chicago African Diaspora Film Festival organizers.  The film did not disappoint.  Anyone interested in various cultures, Amazon Rain Forest, and even in West African Native Religion would probably find this film fascinating.

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