Zombi Child movie still
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103 min.
Release Date
Zombi Child movie poster

“Listen, white world, as our dead roar. Listen to my zombie voice honoring our dead.”

– René Depestre’s poem “Cap’tain Zombi”

Zombi Child, Bertrand Bonello’s slyly political genre trap, adopts the name and pretense of a horror film to confront matters of French identity, colonialism, and cultural appropriation. Defiantly conceptual, the French filmmaker’s 2019 feature looks at first glance like a coming-of-age drama spiced with a dash of Haitian Vodou magic. But Bonello never does anything in straightforward terms, and Zombi Child is no exception. Blending ethnographic attention to Haitian folk culture with an intellectual underpinning that investigates France’s history, the director’s typically unconventional approach raises questions about what he intends to convey. A reactive might wonder why a white Frenchman is making a film immersed in Haitian Vodou, and whether that constitutes cultural appropriation. Another perspective may view the film as a response to cultural appropriation, portraying the real horror of how the French treat cultures they’ve ruled over with a sense of otherness and mysticism. Zombi Child challenges the colonizer’s view, using the trademarks of a genre picture in service of a pointed critique of France’s mask of liberty as it compares to their historical behavior. Thoughtfully conceived and performed, the film is a mesmerizing experience that approaches Haitian culture with openness and the French treatment thereof with a critique stemming from the country’s colonial history.

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