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Zombi Child

Bertrand Bonello
France 2019 / 103’
The Yellow Night

Haitian voodoo and black magic at a boarding school in Paris. Bonello weaves together two threads: the story of Clairius Narcisse from 1962, known in Haiti as the first “medically confirmed” case of zombification, with the adventures of his granddaughter at an exclusive school for girls. He smuggles a post-colonial message into a spectacular, giallo-style horror. Contrary to the cinematic tradition of showing the undead as poetic or political allegories, Bonello consciously refers to the genealogy of the phenomenon and focuses on ethnographic sources. He examines the culture of voodoo from its Haitian origins to its post-colonial manifestation in contemporary France. The Haitian part of the film shows the ritual and political context of voodoo that is often absent from films, with the exception of Mai Deren’s Divine Horsmen (1954), Thomas Harlan’s Souvence (1991) and Charles Najman’s Royal Bonbon (2001), which Zombi Child is dedicated to. Bonello shows that this syncretic, Christianity-tinged blend of various African animistic cults was a response to the slave trade. In the second, Paris-based story, we see the opposite: voodoo echoes in the Western imagination, pop-culture codes and characters that we know from the countless B films. It is the West that has succumbed to zombification.

Ewa Szabłowska

Bertrand Bonello

Bertrand Bonello was born in Nice in 1968. His adventure with art began as a composer. He has established himself in the world of cinema as a director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. At the beginning of his film career, he was involved in the New French Extreme movement, alongside Gaspar Noé and François Ozon, among others. His films have taken part in the main competition at Cannes on three occasions. His 2014 film  Saint Laurent was the French candidate for the Oscars.

Selected filmography

2001 Le Pornographe / The Pornographer

2003 Tiresia

2008 O wojnie / De la guerre / On War

2011 Apollonide. Zza okien domu publicznego / L'Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close) / House of Tolerance

2014 Saint Laurent

2016 Nocturama

Cast & Crew

director Bertrand Bonello
screenplay Bertrand Bonello
cinematography Yves Cape
editing Anita Roth
music Bertrand Bonello
cast Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Katiana Milfort
producer Bertrand Bonello, Judith Lou Lévy
production My New Picture, Les Films du Bal
sales Playtime
language French, Haitian
colouration colour