Q&A

Maxime Jean-Baptiste

What’s your background?

My background is set-up in France, in Seine-et-Marne, where I'm born. Usually the background is about studies, but for me, it's this region, where also, I worked for some years in the sorting center of La Poste, with my father. This place is important for me, because it's a place where a lot of Guianese and Antillese are working, since the arrival of these communities in France in the sixties. I learned a lot of things there. Even if the job is somehow very repetitive, still, I'm proud to have work there. I do think that when afterwards I went to an art school in Belgium (erg and KASK School of Arts), I was happy but still, it was weird to meet students, teachers and artists that were developing works about "work", "rights" or "race", without really knowing why they were doing it. There was some class clashes issues I would say. In 2015, when the attack at the Bataclan is Paris happened, I needed to understand this act. And the book "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon awaked me. This book gave me many answers about this event. But also lot of confidence, self-esteem and trust in myself to do my work, to think that I was worthy to say something. It was one of the foundation to do my work, till today.

What influences you artistically?

My influences are wide, but focused on specific films or filmography. I have been influenced by the film "Tongues Untied" by Marlon Riggs, "Paranoid Park" by Gus Van Sant, "Blow up" by Michelangelo Antonioni, the films of Chantal Akerman, my own teacher at erg Manon de Boer and her film "Resonating Surfaces", Martin Arnold, Louis Henderson.

Very recently, I discovered the work of Roberto Minervini, in between documentary and fiction. It's a huge influence on my first feature length film, "Kouté vwa", that I'm currently editing.

How do you start a new work?

It's always different… I have no clear answers. Two of my short films were commissions, so it was linked with a very specific context. Even if I'm currently working on the editing of my first feature length film, I can't not think about the situation in Gaza, this catastrophe, that is not anymore a conflict or a battle, but a clear genocide orchestrated by the zionists. In French Guiana, we went through similar colonial processes. French Guiana is a french department based in South America. It is for me a clear colony, that is experiencing what Aimé Césaire called "a genocide by substitution". Guianese people go to France, and French people come to Guiana to take control of the territory. What is currently happening in Gaza is a more wide process of colonization. This is why to think of the liberation of the Palestinians is not only for the Palestinians, but a hope for all the oppressed people living under settlers colonialism in the planet. So with that, I don't really know how I'll start my next project.

What are you working on right now?

I'm currently editing my first feature length film, named "Kouté vwa". The story is focused on the life of Melrick, an unruly young boy who spends his summer in French Guiana at his grandmother's house to escape his turbulent daily life in Stains, France. At the end of his stay, he plays the drum to revive the memory of his late uncle, Lucas Diomar, who died in tragic circumstances. Melrick becomes aware of his place in a family destroyed by an irreparable grief.
We are planning to finish the film for the next year. It's quite intense, but I'm happy to transmit this story that is really dear to me.