In the Billowing Night
France, 2021, 51 min
Retracing the footsteps of her ancestors, questioning her identity through the story of her father, thus is the delicate task undertaken by Erika Etangsalé in her first feature film. Shot between Reunion Island and Mâcon, In the Billowing Night weaves a story of silence, dark dreams, mysterious pain and muted violence. Silence. That of a father who has never spoken of the traumas of exile and his arrival in metropolitan France. Pain. That shared by father and daughter, deep down in their bodies, and of which they can never be rid. Violence. That of the French migration policy of the 1960s-1980s promoted by Bumidom2. Bringing flesh to this story, Erika Etangsalé tactfully and discreetly mingles her voice with that of her father, who, in a narrative that is unfailingly contained, reflects upon his “oneway trip” to Paris, where his aspirations were overtaken by the reality of France.
Interspersing the colour sequences of a dull and melancholic French province with the beautiful black and white images of the majestic volcanic cirques of Reunion, the “maroons”, runaway slaves, are resuscitated. From a near past to a more distant one, the gap is so small. By digging into her father’s silence, Erika Etangsalé elicits a voice that recalls, in halftones and whispers, the memory of slavery and the whiff of colonialism from a not so distant policy, which remains a blind spot in the history of France.