Battledream Chronicle: Lame Name, Awesome Film

Now that I finally understand that a love of Martinique does not necessarily equate to an endorsement of colonialism, mental slavery or white supremacy, I’m coming out of the closet as a Madininaphile.   So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that my chosen residence at present is the centre stage of an animated feature at cinemas now.  Enter Battledream Chronicle.

Now it must be said, if there was an award for most imaginative storyline ever, I think Battledream Chronicle would be in the running.  In the year 2100 the whole world has been subjugated to digital slavery (interesting concept).  Human Beings are forced to pay a monthly rent/fee just to be permitted to remain alive (relatively believable) by playing a computer game ‘Battledream Chronicle’ and collecting virtual prizes which are accepted in the real world (less believable).

This is because for years an international Battledream Chronicle tournament has involved the top players of each country playing for their country’s freedom, and losing to Mortemonde, the villain nation of the piece (feasible for a film). ‘Sable Reve’ ie Martinique is the only country Mortemonde hasn’t played yet, making it the last independent nation in the world (so unthinkable it’s hilarious).  This is a parallel universe obviously, a world away from contemporary Martinican reality, whereby the country is among the last of the remaining ‘classic’ European colonies, but that’s why they call it escapism and thus begins the film.

Despite it’s lame name and dazzlingly alternate reality, Battledream Chronicle was a great romp and I’d encourage you to go and watch it unreservedly.  It’s got black Caribbean animated characters, teenagers with a mission to save the world, going in and out of a video game, with accompanying tension and graphics for the fight scenes (hence the ‘battle’ in battledream), with characters that are well-developed, passing both the Bechtel Test and the black version of it, with some great back-stories.  Ultimately, Battledream Chronicle is a tale well-told.

The plot is also more nuanced than I’ve made it sound.  The film illustrates the power of memory, specifically the victors’ ability to manipulate collective memory, and the impact on the other players, which in a country where history as a subject is simply not taught seriously, (as I attempted to demonstrate here) is quite a radical message.

But Alain Bidard is all about remembrance I suspect.  His film is about a fight to the death for freedom in the future, was released on the national holiday during which Martinicans celebrate the end of slavery, and the film delicately probes the difference between losing a battle and losing a war.  Bidard is clearly a filmmaker with something to say.

Battledream Chronicle depicts the power of true friendship, of protective love, and the drama invokes the necessity of integrity, the consequences of betrayal, and the boundlessness of evil.  The plot also hinges on a little issue called immigration.  Importantly, these universal messages are communicated through a Martinican story.  For what is supposedly light entertainment, there are thus poignant, memorable and thought-provoking moments.

But actually, what I really loved about Battledream Chronicle was that it was hopeful.

So hopeful!  In a country where fear and despair can often seem like the correct emotions with which to interpret the future in polite conversation, Battledream Chronicle was unashamedly patriotic: the special moves ‘Soucouyant!’ of the Martinican gamers are based on real characters from local folklore for example. Other obvious nods to Martinique are visible when the (female) President of the last free nation ‘Sable Reve’ (Sandy Dream) wears the Madras, traditional dress in Madinina, or when the gamers have to save the world, and their country whose pollution levels are about to suffocate all the inhabitants. And I’m not Martinican, so who knows how many other references I missed.

I can’t wait to get the DVD or see the Making Of because the film is apparently the brain child of one dude, Alain Bidard, who wrote and directed/animated Battledream Chronicle himself.  It took him five years and the support of the government and the town council of his hometown apparently, to get the film made, but you’d never know that from the high quality.  It’s an amazing achievement.  An original, 21st century Caribbean twist on a classic save-the-world-in-72-hours scenario from an incredibly gifted patriotic Caribbean auteur, what more could an intrepid movie-goer ask for?

Battledream Chronicle is out in Martinique now, so feel free to start requesting it at your local cinema/film festival!

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