Palcy's first feature is set in her native Martinique of the '30s: an 11-year-old boy lives in a shanty row (Rue Cases Nègres) in the middle of the back-breaking regime of the sugar cane plantations. Thanks to the selfless devotion of his grandmother, and the spiritual awakening offered by an ancient mentor, whose father was an African slave, he prospers at school, and manages to escape the grinding round of poverty by dint of education. Shot in ochre hues, with a remarkable polish, the movie never allows itself the easy route of angry misery, but actively engages its themes with optimism and its characters with love. The old people, especially, are treated with great dignity, while the boy's slow awakening to a poetic understanding of his condition is imbued with potent, primitive magic. CPea.