• Flash Competition


Aliha Thalien

Known as the “Island of Flowers”, Martinique brings to mind exotic beaches of fine sand and constant sun in a bright sky. Located in the Caribbean, it was colonised by the French in 1635. In a few shots, Aliha Thalien sets her scene between coconut trees and blue seas. The picture-postcard imagery, embraced by a splendid foreground full of dense, saturated colours set to a background of shatta, gradually gives way to the silence of other views, reminding us, for example, of the island’s slave-owning past. The change in tone indicates a distancing from the exoticization of the island. A tracking shot from a motorbike creates a movement that seems to lead us to its heart – it’s a portrait of the interior that Nos Îles paints. Our guides are young people, filmed in a group, with all the joy, vigour and promise of youth. With her unpretentious editing, gentle modulations of ambient sounds and fixed frames, the director cultivates a feeling of steamy tranquillity. A friendly complicity reigns between their splashing around in the water, and the crystal-clear skies, punctuated by casual jokes and digs aimed at the békés (white creoles descended from the early colonisers). Simply, Thalien records snatches of conversation that veer between light-hearted topics and more serious considerations of the island’s socio-economic realities such as the colonial legacy, the relationship with mainland France, the desire for political independence and the control of resources. Implicitly, a contrasted portrait emerges of a multiple Martinique, infused with the lucidity of its mixed-race, Creole youth and its easy sovereignty.

Claire Lasolle

Your film is a blend of curiosity for the landscapes of Martinique and for a certain youth on the island. What is your relation to Martinique ? 

My roots are in Martinique, but I was born and raised in Paris. My strongest bond to Martinique are my childhood memories, which informed my interest in the island’s scenery. Fortunately, I was able to travel there and back often – either with my mother, or thanks to my father’s bonus leave. Over time, I collected a large amount of postcards, which were one of my first inspirations for the film. I then returned to Martinique in 2021 to reunite with my dear grandmother after a decade of absence. It was obvious to me that I should film the youth there, possibly because that was a period of my life when I wasn’t able to visit.

Who are the protagonists in the film ? How were you all able to work together ? Were there preestablished topics to your conversations ? 

I had the good fortune of meeting  Calí, Coraline, Amanda, Naisha, Shanelle, Giovanny and Fiona  through their professor of drama, Rita Ravier. They are all friends in real life, and I was awed by their companionship, their selflessness and their sense of humour. Things unfolded quite naturally. I had come with a script for the film, but I knew it wouldn’t be of much use because I wanted to work on the basis of improvisations. I was also aware that I had much to learn from the group, and that I should remain flexible and porous. 

Of course, I also had a clear idea of the themes I wished to approach in the film, be it in a frontal manner or otherwise. The informal rehearsals we organized proved to be a very efficient way of making sure the script would evolve, by incorporating the anecdotes and gestures everyone brought to the table. 

Could you discuss the stakes of editing in the film ? What were the questions that you were faced with while painting this portrait of Martinican youth ? 

I worked alongside Eva Studzinski for the editing of the film, with whom I share a connection to Martinique. I believe this made a lot of things easier. For exemple, I was reluctant to the idea of « explaining » everything, as it tends to happen in documentary filmmaking. Furthermore, some questions were already very present before the shooting started, that were still to be solved by the time we entered the postproduction phase : among them, we could name the questions of image and exoticization in the context of representation of the islands. It felt tricky to edit the film in Paris, with someone who’d never set in Martinique.  

Because the movie is missing a clear and classical storyline, it really came together during the editing process. We had to find a way to balance our interest in the landscape and our interest in the group, but also to balance our discourse : we wanted to celebrate the complexity and the richness of the West Indies, but also to discuss post-colonial and decolonial issues. 

You breathed a very particular rhythm into the film through the bias of sound design. Could you elaborate on your intentions and your approach to sound ? 

I was interested in staging the island as semi-haunted, to play around with the « postcard » aesthetic that’s systematically associated with places like Martinique : to flirt with a « magical » and supernatural dimension, whilst maintaining a naturalist streak. It’s a loaded place, to me at least : loaded with memory and memories, loaded with sounds and colours. 

When the shooting began, we were a very small team : it was just Nino Defontaine handling camerawork, and myself handling sound. Later on, Alexandre Pastel took over on sound duties. It was unnecessary for us to be synced ; it actually proved organizationally easier for us not to be synced. The soundscapes we recorded over that lapse of time were then used rather freely during the editing process. The sound editing was realized by artist and filmmaker Yohei Yamakado.  Watching his previous films, I’d been struck by his soundwork and his vision brought a lot to the final result. 

Why resort to the plural form in the film’s title ? 

The movie finds its origins in a need to discuss the feeling of being torn apart. I believe there are several Martiniques : the Martinique of born-and-raised Martinicans, that of those who were born in the metropolis, that of those who were born in Martinique but raised elsewhere. Then, there are the Martinique of the OJAM (nationalist anticolonialist youth movement), that of the Béké people, that of the tourists, that of the children of the Bumidom (Office for the Development of Migration in the French Overseas Departments), and so on. I think the film would’ve been different if I’d been raised in Martinique, and I think it highlights a need for detachment from metropolitan France as well as a number of already-existing bonds and connections within the Caribbean and Latin American area. 

Interview by Claire Lasolle


  • Flash Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2023 / 23’

Cast: Amanda NOIREN, Cali Calí, Shanelle PUISY, Fiona SOUTIF, Naisha URSULET, Coraline CHRONÉ, Giovanny BERMONT

Production: Luc-Jérôme BAILLEUL (Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains)