White Material


Twenty-two years after her acclaimed debut Chocolat, Claire Denis returns to Africa and, for the first time, collaborates with Oscar-nominated actress Isabelle Huppert (Elle), to craft a visceral and very personal rumination on a society hurtling into chaos.

“Simultaneously poetic, dramatic and intense, White Material is an altogether stunning work.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

In White Material, Huppert plays Maria Vial, the proprietor of a crumbling family coffee plantation in a country collapsing into civil war. Delusionally resolute in her attachment to her African home, Maria refuses to join other white residents who are fleeing to France, as rebels and the army struggle for control. “Dirty whites … they don’t deserve this beautiful land,” Maria says; but who does deserve it? The child soldiers swarming around the rebel known as The Boxer (Isaach de Bankolé, The Limits of Control)? Or Maria’s own son, who awakens from privileged lassitude into a delirious racial fury? As tragedy looms and madness encroaches, Maria stands her ground and tries to hang on to her increasingly unstable reality.     Crafted with Denis’ signature full-throttle visual style, which places the viewer at the center of the maelstrom, and driven by an unforgettably ferocious performance from Huppert, White Material is a gripping evocation of the death throes of European colonialism and a fascinating look at a woman lost in her own mind. (Dir. by Claire Denis, 2010, France/Cameroon, in French with English subtitles, 106 mins., Not Rated)