A Kelowna-raised filmmaker has produced a short-film about a black slave in Montreal who was tried, tortured and executed in 1734 for allegedly setting fire to that city.
Howard J. Davis, 27, says C’est Moi examines the life of Marie Josephe-Angelique with a view to examining a dark and mostly forgotten period of slavery in Canadian history.
“As someone of mixed heritage, it’s my goal to share stories not at the forefront of mainstream media,” Davis, who graduated from Kelowna Secondary School in 2008, said Sunday.
“I believe it’s important to reflect on where we came from, in order to learn as we move ahead,” added the graduate of the Ryerson School of Performance who also acts and sings.
In the short film, Quebec actress Jenny Brizard plays Josephe-Angelique as she moves through modern-day Montreal.
On-screen texts describe the way in which Josephe-Angelique was charged with setting a fire that destroyed a hospital and 45 homes on Rue Saint-Paul, leaving hundreds of people homeless and setting off a looting spree.
Testimony was mostly of hearsay, and none of the witnesses claimed to have seen Josephe-Angelique set the fire.
She was tortured, and though she consistently maintained her innocence, she was publicly executed on June 21, 1734.
Her story was largely lost to history for two centuries, but historians and cultural critics have revived it recently, using documents from the period to debate whether Josephe-Angelique was a rebel or a scapegoat.
C’est Moi has been screened at many film festivals around North America and Europe, and has drawn critical praise.
“C’est Moi is a poetic meditation on a fragment of neglected history,” wrote Clive Davis of the London Times and Sunday Times.
While Davis lived in Kelowna, he was active with Kelowna Community Theatre.
He still considers Kelowna his hometown, and will be back in B.C. in the spring to be involved in a feature film shooting in Cache Creek.