Claire Denis / F, 2009
French version / Czech subtitles, 109 min
For the main role in her latest film, Claire Denis cast Isabelle Huppert, holder of the 44th KVIFF Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. Huppert plays Marie, who has set herself the task of maintaining Café Vial, a once prosperous coffee plantation. But post-colonial Africa, where Denis returns after many years, is quite different from the place she captured in her semi-autobiographical debut Chocolate. Twenty years on, civil war is spreading chaos and violence in a country held to ransom by hoards of child soldiers armed with sub-machine guns. Unlike the majority of French residents, Marie and her family refuse to evacuate and remain on the plantation, where Marie tries to save the coffee yield and hire labourers to harvest the crop. For the natives, the Vial family become “white material”, and the local radio station jubilantly announces that the days are numbered for families like this. Denis has succeeded in visually conjuring up an almost magical world whose beauty stands out from the starkness of the historical situation, and whose heroes are faced with a number of unforeseeable and often surprising decisions.