Honoring the French Film 'Rue Cases-Negres'

The 1983 classic tells the story of a young black orphan growing up with his grandmother in 1930s Martinique.

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Rue Cases-Nègres is a gloriously life-enhancing and potentially life-changing classic, but sadly an underappreciated gem. For me, this is exactly the type of film that we should be showing our young people to instill pride, self-worth, dignity, knowledge of self and a hard work ethic of sacrifice and betterment -- all the while promoting the myriad benefits of education. We should be screening films like Rue Cases-Nègres regularly in schools, youth clubs, community centers and, dare I say it, prisons. While not overtly political, it is a highly moral film, yet not so consciously didactic as to obscure the consummate artistry with which it is written, shot and directed.

At the end of the film, José as narrator tells us: "I will take my black shack alley with me," reminding us to remember where we come from, no matter where we end up in life. He exhorts us to spare a thought for "all the black shack alleys all over the world," to think of the marginalized, the ostracized and the oppressed wherever they may be, those whom society has cast out and unfairly discarded, often the global black poor. Rue Cases-Nègres implores us, by appealing to our humanity and compassion, to be our brother's keeper.

So let's take this occasion to remember, celebrate and salute this beautiful cinematic gem. Ye krik! Ye krak! I promise you that those words will stay with you forever.

Lindsay Johns is a London-based writer and broadcaster. He currently blogs on current affairs and culture for the Daily Mail online.

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