Lee Skallerup Bessette deposited Becoming a Gwo Nèg in 1970s Haiti: Dany Laferrière’s Coming-of-Age Film Le Goût des Jeunes Filled (On the Verge of Fever) in the group LLC Literatures of the United States in Languages Other Than English on MLA Commons 2 years, 8 months ago
When all men are either dead, exiled, thugs or zombies in a world ruled through violence and terror by a President-for-Life and his son, how is a young boy expected to come of age and forge his own identity? Le Goût des Jeunes Filles (On the Verge of Fever), a 2004 film about Fanfan, a 15-year-old boy, set in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on the same weekend of François Duvalier’s death in 1971, explores this question. Sheltered by his fearful and devoted mother, Fanfan is lured into the violent and unpredictable Port-au-Prince nightlife by his friend Gégé. When a Tonton Macoute (Duvalier’s civilian enforcers) pulls a gun on Fanfan, Gégé vows revenge against the Macoute and convinces Fanfan that he castrated him. Fanfan, now on the run and fearful for his life and that of his mother, hides in a house across the street from his own home. Fanfan has long watched the house from his bedroom window; it is a place where four beautiful young girls—Miki, Choupette, Pasqualine and Marie-Erna—spend time enjoying themselves and doing as they please, but where the Tonton Macoutes are also a constant presence. While Gégé eventually reveals the castration of the Macoute to be nothing more than a prank, meaning Fanfan had nothing to fear, that weekend, Fanfan matures from naïve schoolboy to being a gwo nèg (big man). This essay examines this transformation as it is presented in the film.