The Esmeraldas Beach
La plage d'Esmeraldas
- Patrice Raynal
- 58 min
- Fabrice Marache (l'atelier documentaire)
On arriving in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, Patrice Raynal finds himself immersed in the tumult of a carnival. The music and dancing – more ambiguous phenomena than first appears – provide the through-line for his first-person narrative. Although these artistic activities initially come across as the proud assertion of an African heritage, the superficial recognition they enjoy makes it easier in the end to disregard the situation of Afro-descendants. The Esmeraldas Beach sets out to rectify this manufactured invisibility and add to the counter-history of Ecuador that the film’s central protagonist, Juan García, has developed over the years. The only Afro-descendants shown in local schoolbooks are portrayed next to a marimba and football. Patrice Raynal highlights a series of figures who have struggled against oppression. The 1999 assassination of Prime Minister Jaime Hurtado, the first Black to hold this office, awakens memories of historical combatants, such as the 23 slaves who in 1553 seized their masters’ weapons to found the Republic of the Zambos. On his journeying from remote villages to peri-urban slums, the filmmaker encounters not so much continued resistance as persistent oppression. Today, the violence seems more insidious: it is still physical, but primarily political, economic, geographic, environmental. Returning to the age of slavery thus helps to highlight its contemporary ramifications, and better rekindle the courage of the deceased rebels.
After studying social science and musical composition, Patrice Raynal turned to creative documentary. His first film was made in Burkino Faso on a travelling cinema that was raising rural communities’ awareness of HIV/AIDS. After this experience, he resumed training at Créadoc in Angoulême and graduated from Bordeaux with a Master’s in documentary filmmaking. He co-founded the association Tourné Monté Films, which he ran for ten years, promoting documentaries and providing training on images.