Programmed by Charlène Dinhut
One hundred and twenty-five hectares – such is the surface area illegally occupied since 1983 by a group of farmers in Northern Martinique. Veronique Montjean, the group’s founding member, tells the story of this occupation. By taking possession of what, at the time, was a wasteland to develop subsistence farming based on biodiversity, farmers sought, first and foremost, to counter the property development projects that threaten the island’s exploitable land. An agricultural and political stance that naturally opposes the banana monoculture implemented by mainland France that is behind chlordecone (carginogenic pesticide) poisoning of a vast share of its soil and rivers.
Is it thanks to the precision of movements, the repetition of sounds – flat, stout, rustling – that ‘125 hectares’ paves a new way for verbal expression? In any case, this film offers a rare space and time for deploying thought, as it orientates the words of Véronique Montjean equally towards her work and the land. As she speaks, she moves away from the camera, her eyes scrutinising the horizon, delving into the soil, the past, the future; she seems to converse without address, or with no other address than that of the field, the island, of its relief, of its climate.
Amidst such thought, the issues that emerge are reminiscent of certain Zones to Defend – autonomy, land occupation, biodiversity. However, in Martinique, the scars of slavery remain acute, as is the relationship with mainland France. To quote Florence Lazar, the idea that takes shape here is perhaps one of anti-plantation, through a work that becomes a breeding ground for action, for protest, for the preservation of the soil and of know-how.
Programmer and curator