Marie-Joseph Angélique is a name that few people may actually recognize, but she’s an important figure of black history in Canada. Kept as a slave in Montreal, he was accused and convicted of setting fire to her owner’s home on April 10, 1734. The fire destroyed 45 homes, and her arrest and conviction came about because of the popular opinion that she was guilty. An overlooked figure in history, C’est Moi is a short film that briefly explores her story, as well as the idea that as we restore our history, we may actually be hiding more of it.
Jenny Brizard stars as Marie-Joseph Angélique, walking towards a church in Montreal and having a conversation with God about her conviction. She knows that only God can find the truth of her guilt or innocence, which works into the real life story of Angélique. Arguments over her actual role in the arson and whether it was simply a mistake made by someone else, or an action taken by Angélique in response to her life of slavery, leave the truth up to God.
This is also a bit of the problem with C’est Moi. None of this is really explained in the short film in any way. We watch as Brizard walks towards a church and then through a field. The dialogue doesn’t really say anything about Angélique or her story, and it was only through some searching that I was able to find the story and a reference to the Declaration of Racial Discrimination that was destroyed in 2016 when Montreal was under reconstruction.
Granted, it’s difficult to tell a complete story such as this in an 8 minute short film, but I really wish there had been something more added here. If you know the bigger story, the short film not only works better, but provides a beautiful visual blend of past and present. Even the little information I’ve added here will give the short film a new dimension, as I had no knowledge of Angélique and her story prior to C’est Moi, and finding the story afterwards gave the short more impact.
This lack of explanation can also be seen as a positive for C’est Moi though. The short is strong enough to actually get viewers to seek more information, leading to a bigger story that couldn’t possibly be contained within the short. That really should be the purpose of films like this. It offers us a glimpse of something more important, causing viewers to begin their own search and reach their own conclusions. It may not work quite like it could, but C’est Moi is the beginning of a conversation that viewers will want, and should, have.
C’est Moi has begun having screenings at various festival in the US, and will hopefully find its way to a theatre or festival in Canada in the near future. You can keep up to date on screenings at the films official website.