Claire Denis revisits Africa, the setting for her celebrated first feature Chocolat, in this beautiful and starkly haunting film (nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival).
Isabelle Huppert is Maria, wife and mother, who owns a coffee plantation and is fighting to keep her family and her business together against the chaotic backdrop of a brutal civil war.
Armed child soldiers flock the local streets, and French helicopters patrol the sky – the helicopters aiming to save French families like Maria’s from near certain disaster.
Her family has become the “white material” of the title, swept helplessly along by the weight of politics and history like so much flotsam whilst trying desperately to survive; and Denis plunges the viewer into the physical and emotional turmoil of this environment to memorably powerful effect.
With a strong turn from Isaach de Bankolé (recently seen in Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control) as a legendary black hero whose world has also been turned upside down, as he comes into contact with Maria.