Rue Cases-Nègres

Sugar Cane Alley
In 1930s Martinique, orphan José lives with his grandmother in the shacks on the edge of a sugar cane plantation. While the adults work long days in the fields for the French colonial rulers, the children are left to their own devices. José learns about his African heritage from old man Medouze, whose father was trafficked into slavery. At the village school, he learns the names of French glaciers. “Learning is the key that opens the second door to our freedom,” says the teacher. With his support, José is able to go to school in the capital. But to pay for it, his grandmother still has to work despite her advanced age … Seen from the perspective of the young protagonist, the film’s range of characters represents the various survival strategies of Martinique’s Black population – frugality, currying favour, resistance. As such, Sugar Cane Alley is considered to be the first film with whose heroes they could identify. Based on the eponymous classic of Caribbean Négritude, Euzhan Palcy’s film won the Best First Work award at the 1983 Venice Film Festival. In Martinique, it even beat E.T. at the box office.
by Euzhan Palcy
with Garry Cadenat, Darling Légitimus, Douta Seck, Joby Bernabé, Francisco Charles, Marie-Jo Descas, Marie-Ange Farot, Henri Melon, Eugène Mona, Joël Palcy
France 1983 French 106’ Colour DCP: JMJ International Pictures, Paris Rating R6

For the 2023 Retrospective, internationally renowned directors, actors, and screenwriters were asked to select their personal coming-of-age favourites.
Ava DuVernay on her selection


  • Garry Cadenat
  • Darling Légitimus
  • Douta Seck
  • Joby Bernabé
  • Francisco Charles
  • Marie-Jo Descas
  • Marie-Ange Farot
  • Henri Melon
  • Eugène Mona
  • Joël Palcy


Director Euzhan Palcy
Screenplay Euzhan Palcy based on the novel “La Rue Cases Nègres” by Joseph Zobel
Cinematography Dominique Chapui
Editing Marie-Josèphe Yoyott
Music Groupe Malavoi
Sound Yves Osmu, Pierre Befve
Art Director Hoang Thanh At
Costumes Isabelle Filleul
Make-Up Marie-France Vassel
Producers Michel Loulergue, Alix Régis
Executive Producer Jean-Luc Ormières

Produced by

SU.MA.FA. Productions

Orca Productions

NEF Diffusion

Additional information

DCP: JMJ International Pictures, Paris