Claire Denis

Claire Denis & Marie N’Diaye

Maria Vial: Isabelle Huppert
André Vial: Christophe Lambert
Manuel Vial: Nicolas Duvauchelle
The Mayor: William Nadylam
Henri Vial: Michel Subor
The Boxer: Isaach De Bankolé


IFC Films

PRODUCTION: France, Cameroon, 2008
RATING: Not Rated
GAUGE: 35mm, DVD

“Claire Denis’ films aspire to a crystalline purity. Even when packed with the stuff of social and political unrest – war, murder, racial tension, unemployment, refugees, families in crisis – they give the sense of having dropped, in the course of their elaboration, whatever ‘message’ they may have intended at the outset. What remains, in the end, is a cryptic diagram of bodies and desires, environments and landscapes, confrontations and evasions, things said and unsaid.”
Adrian Martin, Sight and Sound

Marking the first collaboration between two titans of French cinema—director Claire Denis and actress Isabelle Huppert—White Material unfolds as a fever dream, a haunting, enigmatic look at the horrors of colonialism’s legacy, a subject that Denis first explored in her semiautobiographical debut feature, Chocolat (1988). Set in an unnamed African country during an unspecified time, White Material centers on Maria Vial, a coffee-plantation owner who is blindly determined to continue her business while civil war rages on around her. Chaos engulfs the nation, but Maria implores her workers, many of whom have already fled, to stay and harvest the coffee crop. Amid the increasingly violent anarchy, an injured rebel leader known only as “the Boxer” takes refuge at Maria’s farm; she offers him assistance but then becomes too distracted by her obsession to harvest the beans. Maria’s folly—though she’s a native Frenchwoman who immigrated to Africa to exploit the land, she proudly distinguishes herself from “dirty whites”—is matched by the sheer madness of child soldiers roaming the country, rifles in one hand, stuffed animals in the other.






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