An African colonial soldier who sets out to win back his fiancée, a Viet-Minh spy, will have
to fight his superior, a staunch defender of the French Empire.
Toward the end of the French war in Indochina, Ganda, an African colonial soldier re-enlists to fight alongside the French army for a second term. Ganda wants to search for his Vietnamese fiancée and their son, born during his first term of his service. Soon after his arrival, he escapes from his army base in order to search for his fiancée, who has in the meantime joined the Viet-Minh. On his way through the jungle, he is captured by the Viet-Minh and taken to a re-education camp.
Stuck in the camp and exposed to harsh treatments, Ganda has to make a choice: either to submit to the anti-colonial conscientization program set up by the Viet-Minh and rally with the enemy or follow his French comrades who prepare an evasion plan.
“Corporal Ganda” is the story about a soldier in a war that is not his own but in which he will need to take a position. It is the story about difficult choices, maturation, love and redemption.
“Corporal Ganda” is inspired by concrete historical facts, which I have researched for my documentary "Indochina, Traces of a Mother" (2011). It tells the story of former African colonial soldiers fighting for France in Indochina. Between 1946 and 1954, over 60.000 soldiers from sub-Saharan Africa, part of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps (CEFEO), were enlisted in a colonial war against the Viêt Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam).
When I collected the testimonies of the old African war veterans during the shooting of my documentary, I listened to marvelous stories, at times adventurous, at times heroic and even funny, but often also sad and full of drama. And the desire grew in me to bring these stories back to life, to reconstitute the visual environment of that time and to recreate the emotions of these brave men, who are now living a very modest life in their African villages, forgotten by history. Thus, inspired by these stories and backed up by substantive archival research, I have developed a screenplay with mostly fictional characters but which aims at historical accuracy.
While entertaining, Corporal Ganda discloses a piece of world history that is not well known. And it tells this story from the perspective of someone who rarely is a protagonist: a colonized person who is expected to fight against other colonized people. It challenges the audiences to understand this history from the perspective of people who usually appear only as figurants in mainstream Western film productions. Thus, it also has the potential to correct the audiences’ often reductive ideas about Africa and its people.