The IFI French Film Festival
Wednesday, 23rd November 2011

Black Venus
(Vénus noire)

Wednesday at the IFI French Film Festival began with a repeat screening of Pater and continued with I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive (Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante) playing as part of the festival’s Claude Miller focus.

Later on Abdellatif Kechiche’s provocative film Black Venus screened. The film is based on the true story of Saartjie Baartman (Yahima Torres), a black South African female, who was lured to London in the early 19th century by Hendrick Cezar (Andre Jacobs) and exhibited as part of a freak show under the name ‘Hottentot Venus’.

After being sold to a French animal trainer, she is taken to Paris where she is further exhibited in the most degrading ways and eventually forced into prostitution before her death. Her body was then dissected as a specimen for science, which opens the film, and so in death she was just as much abused as she was in life. 200 years later France handed back Saartjie Baartman’s remains to the South African Government in a symbolic gesture of reconciliation.

Kechiche tells Saartjie‘s story in a purposeful, uncomfortable manner making the audience off-screen voyeurs of her on-screen exploitation. His unflinching camera lurks over the acts of abuse performed on Saartjie again and again throughout the film – and at just under 3 hours, this makes for a gruelling cinematic experience that isn’t easily forgotten.


Steven Galvin

Check out the festival programme here


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