“LISTEN TO THE BEAT” — the award-winning short documentary that made a splash around the world. - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Friday, February 11, 2022

“LISTEN TO THE BEAT” — the award-winning short documentary that made a splash around the world.

 LISTEN TO THE BEAT” — the award-winning short documentary that made a splash around the world.

Sixty years ago (which isnt that long ago), France made the decision to create its space center in French Guiana where six hundred Guianan people were expropriated to allow the government to join the space race.Listen To The Beat” give a powerful tool for those people that were silenced. 

The filmmakers who stepped into telling this story are Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Jean-Baptiste both of whom felt the tug of the injustice. Jean is a documentary and narrative filmmaker who works between France and French Guiana. Her films address issues of race, gender and sexuality. Her first documentary film Fabulous” (2019) was selected in about fifty international festivals such as IDFA. This marks her second film which she co-directed with her brother Maxime Jean-Baptiste.  

Maxime is based between Brussels and Paris and was born and raised in the context of the Guyanese and Antillean diaspora in France, to a French mother and a Guyanese father. His interest as an artist is to dig inside the complexity of Western colonial history by detecting the survival of traumas from the past in the present. His audiovisual and performance work is focused on archives and forms of reenactment as a perspective to conceive a vivid and embodied memory. His first film Nou voix” (2018) was selected in about thirty festivals and art exhibitions and was awarded the Jury Prize at Festival des Cinémas Différents et Expérimentaux de Paris (FR). His next film, Moune Ô” (2021), is in the process of distribution.

Listen to the Beat” has touched a nerve throughout the international film community and was selected at CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, ISFF Clermont-Ferrrand, and the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

To date Listen to the Beat” had ranked up the following awards and accolades:

WINNER – Silver Hugo for Best Documentary Short at Chicago Intl. Film Festival

WINNER – Best Short Film at DocAviv Film Festival

WINNER – Best Documentary Short at Melbourne Intl. Film Festival

WINNER – Special Jury Mention at Champs Élysées Film Festival

WINNER – New Vision Award Honorable Mention at CPH: DOX

OFFICIAL SELECTION – Hot Docs, Dokufest, Hamburg, Valencia, Clermont-Ferrand, and more.

Here is what filmmakers — sister-and-brother— Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Jean-Baptiste had to share about making the very fine Listen to the Beat”.

QUESTION:  Your past films addressed issues of race, gender, and sexuality. This film certainly touches on race — what other elements drew your interest?

AUDREY JEAN-BAPTISTE & MAXIME JEAN-BAPTISTE: I was mostly interested in the question of race. But I was especially interested in the relationship between France and French Guiana. French Guiana is a former French colony that is still a part of France in South America. For the first time, with this movie, I found a way to express all the weirdness and the ambiguity of this relationship. 

I was also interested in the process of expropriation. What do we become when we lose our land? And especially when returning is impossible, when the land disappeared. Whats left of us? 

Q:  What surprised you both about the discovery of information?  

AJB & MJB: As we are both Guianese and French, we knew this story for a long time. To write the voice-over of the movie, we met about fifteen people from Guiana. It was a strong inspiration and specially Christian Chocho, who lived the expropriations when he was a child. When he told us his memories, we realized how traumatic this event was. He told us this story as if it happened the day before. The emotional charge of his story was really high and we understood how much this traumatic story is still alive for people who were directly impacted by it.

Q: What (if anything) broke your heart to leave essentially out of the film?

AJB & MJB: In our next movie, we would like to approach more deeply the relationship between the human being and the space conquest which is a particularly current subject today. 

Q: Why are these types of stories important to tell?

AJB & MJB: These stories are important to tell because only a few people know about it. In France, when you tell you to come from French Guiana, most people dont even know where is it on the map. Most of the time, people think its an island in the french indies. Its important to give more visibility to this territory.  

In a few years, when no one will be there to testimony about the expropriations, this story will disappear, as the land and the way of life people lost. So it was really important for us to fix this story somewhere.

And there are so much more things to tell about French Guiana. Its really important that people who are directly connected to this territory could talk about and share their point of view with an international audience. 

Q: Exploring the complexity of Western colonial history is interesting but at the same time (for me) infuriating. What emotional journey did you go on (if any) while making the film? It's infuriating. 

MJB : Yes I agree with you, it is infuriating. I was born in France, near Paris, in an environment where the colonial past is visible through monuments, through institutions, through bodies, through voices, let's say everywhere. 

And yes, all this is infuriating, because France is infuriating, and you have to go through that, in order to find your own emotions, your own voice, and permit yourself to feel. Making this film also helped me to perceive the violence of this french system, a system that operates through beautiful images, beautiful words, beautiful thoughts. The emotional journey of this film was to transform these archives of the "beautiful" french space conquest. 

In our film, these archives are no longer institutional films and images of "beauty", but propaganda films, with a clear ideology. All of a sudden, violence appears, violence is no longer hidden. All of a sudden, these images are violent, they attack us.

This interview has been edited and length and clarity and is part of Sundance 2022. 

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