Tabataba  (1988)





Starring:     Philippe Nahoun (Le capitaine), François Botozandry (Solo), Lucien Dadakisy (Lehidy), Soatody (Harandro), Soavelo (Bakanga), Rasoa (Ndriky), Jacky Guégan (Le chef de canton), Tsimba Tsilavo (L'aide de camp), Philibert Wang (Mahandry), Juliette (Velo), Julienne (Rahiny), Benja (Takarivo), Gilbert (Daba), Rakotoson (Raomby), Lemmy Jean Ralaivao (Rakotoson).

 rebellion against the French leads to Madagascar's independence  (Malagasy, French and English subtitles)



Spoiler Warning:

A young man named comes over to an older man, Ledidy, chopping wood.  The young man tells Lehidy that there is a stranger who wants to speak to the villagers.  He says he is now going to tell the school teacher.  He tells the school teacher and says the speaker is one of the teacher's friends from the city.  The teacher dismisses the students and goes with the young fellow.  A school boy, Solo, wants to know what's going on but the teacher says this matter is for adults only.  

Soho and Lehidy walk toward the Big House.  They stop to say hello to an elderly woman and ask her if she wants to go with them?  She says no because the man doesn't talk like them.  Solo starts to follow the two men, but the elderly woman stops him saying she will tell him a story instead. 

The strangers say the people must unit.  They have emissaries in Paris and a political party (the MDRM) in Madagascar.   The party is fighting for Madagascar's independence. A few men say no to a political party thinking that a party can do nothing for them. 

Grandmother Bakanga tells Solo that General Gallieni gave her the armchair she's sitting in.  Solo asks is General Gallieni is a Malagasy?  No, he's a Vazaha (that is, French). 

In the Big House the meeting goes on.  A small group of women listen from outside the house. 

The speaker says the French have been beaten before and Malagasy has the right to choose for itself.  "We must seize this opportunity."  The man continues speaking into the darkness of night.  He says that violence is not the answer.  If they can vote democratically, they will be free.  Lehidy speaks up and says that the Vazaha won't give back their land to them.  He says they must fight.  He also says that the Americans will help them fight.  Solo has been listening to the talk for awhile.  At least he knows what's going on. 

In the morning the stranger is given a ride up stream in a streamlined raft.  Lehidy is still calling for violence, but the school teacher wants to get independence through non-violence. 

Some women are down by a stream washing the clothes.  One of the women asks the other why wasn't her husband at the meeting?  The woman answers by saying her husband went to his brother's village.  The other two women says that's just something her husband made up.  It's a lie, they say. 

Mahandry, the husband, comes walking down to the stream.  He runs into Lehidy and Solo.  Lehidy tells Mahandry that they missed him at the meeting yesterday.  Lehidy talks about using violence against the French colonizers, but Mahandry says the Vazaha are armed.  Lehidy says the Americans will help them get arms.  Lehidy starts swinging the smaller Mahandry around after Lehidy says he was at the district office paying his taxes.  Lehidy says the French will use the tax money to buy more guns to keep the people down.  He adds that after they kill the French, they will have to kill people like Mahandry.  Solo objects to this saying:  "Kill the Vazaha, but not our brothers!"

Lehidy speaks with his mother.  He tells her that the stranger is a fancy speaker, but they must act.  The Vazaha will not give them their land back.  Grandmother tells Lehidy that the French are too strong, and remember what happened to Lehidy's own father.  She doesn't want to lose Lehidy as well.  She tells him to go see Raomby. 

Three soldiers come to the village, two black and one white.  Solo and a girl he is with see the soldiers coming up from the river bank.  In the village the French flag is raised by the Frenchman.  He asks to speak to the village chief, but no one answers.  So the Frenchman calls for the school teacher.  One of the black soldiers goes over to Solo and tells him to go get the school teacher.  The Frenchman wants to know where everybody is at.  Most of the people are in the fields.  The soldier translates that as the people are burning the forest.  The Frenchman says that burning the forest is forbidden!  If they burn the forest, the soil won't hold.  Instead, they must plant coffee.  So the soldier translates:  "Anyone caught burning the forest will be shot."

The Frenchman says he has come to have the people vote for their representative to represent them in Paris.  The soldiers explains that the pieces of paper will go into the slot in the box he is holding.  Grandmother is carried to the Frenchman in her armchair.  She says:  "Paper in a box is wind in the trees."  The villagers laugh.  The soldier translates what the woman says as:  "Long live France!"   That satisfies the Frenchman. 

Now the school teacher arrives.  The Frenchman gives the ballots to the man and asks for his help in getting the voting done.  The school teacher looks over a sample ballot and tells the Frenchman that the MDRM ballots.  The translator soldier says that the MDRM is forbidden.  The Frenchman says that party is subversive.  In fact, the party is not even officially registered.  As far as the French are concerned, that party doesn't exist.  The school teacher replies:  "Then I can't help you."  The school teacher starts walking out of the village.  The Frenchman yells for the teacher to stop, but it's no use.  The soldier was tempted to shoot the teacher, but the French supervisor forbade it. 

The people are burning the fields.  Solo tells Lehidy that the French supervisor is in the village trying to get a vote from the people. 

In the village Mahandry's gets in trouble in the village for the rumor is that her family sold their coffee to the French.  The wife denies that as false.  Lehidy tries his best to keep the two women apart.  Solo comes running into the village to say that school teacher Raomby was arrested near the railroad.  He's being taken to the Manakara jail.  Lehidy tells him:  "The war has begun." 

Lehidy tells his mother that Solo will take care of her when he's gone.  They have to get Raomby out of jail.  He takes two spears with him. 

The armed men march out of the village.  Lehidy walks the men down by the river.  They come to a waterfall and Ledhidy puts his gourd canteen into the waters of the river.  He anoints his head with the water.  He then does the same thing to the other men. 

Mother walks around the village huts asking people if they have seen Solo.  Grandmother says about Solo:  "He's gone."

Soldiers guard the local railway station.  Solo sneaks up close to the guards.  Someone inside says that the rebels are dangerous.  They must send in the army!  And they must arrest more of the rebels.  The rebel prisoners are imprisoned in one of the railroad cars.  The supervisor comes to speak with the school teacher Raomby.  He says:  "I warned you.  Because of this rumor you're spreading, the farmers refuse to sell their coffee.  It took a lot of effort to introduce that crop."    Raomby will be tried and sent to prison. 

Meanwhile, the rebels are sneaking up on the train station. 

The supervisor comes out of the railroad car and is speared through with a spear.  Raomby shouts:  "Stop, Lehidy!  Don't use violence."  A black guard comes to the railroad and and shoots Raomby twice in the chest.  Lehidy then spears the guard to death.  The rebels now run away.  One of them is shot down.  Solo joins with his brother.  Lehidy says that since they killed Raomby, they must avenge him.  He tells Solo to go back to the village. 

Back at the village, a village elder announces that there has been a battle.  "In this battle, some of our sons were killed."  He goes on to say that sacrificing the zebu (zebus are humped cattle, Brahmans) will protect the village from evil.  The boys bring the zebu into the village courtyard.  They keep jumping on him until he goes down.  The zebu's throat is cut. 

Mother and Solo are out getting wood.  A young girl, Ndriky, comes over to mother and that the Vazaha were defeated and:  "We're independent."  Takarivo told her that.  Furthermore, the Americans have brought weapons.  And they say Lehidy is now a general.  Takarivo found a message in a tree.  Solo says he knows where that tree is and they rush off to go to the tree.  They arrive at the tree and Solo finds another note there.  He grabs it and takes it with him. 

They run and give the village elder the note.  The note says to get rid of the French Army and Padesma.  They also must shelter and feed the nationalist troops. 

Mother tells grandmother they must fight and help the Malagasy Army. 

Floating down the river are hundreds of flyers. On the flyer is a picture of some dead people.  The writing says that this is the fault of the rebels.  The people have been deceived by the rebels.  "France is generous.  Lay down your weapons."

It is raining hard.  Solo tells his mother not to worry about Lehidy.  He'll come back.  He's a general.  A tear rolls down her cheek. 

The recent news is that the enemy is still in Manakara.  A village resident says that then they lied to the people because they were told that they had won and were now independent.  But it's the enemy that is gaining ground.  They are now sacking and burning villages.  Mother asks the village elder where is her son Lehidy? 

Some nationalist troops come to the village and given food and shelter.  When they leave the village  the unit has quite a few volunteers from the village.  One of the volunteers is Mahandry.

Solo see two huts being burned by the French.  While the huts burn, Solo runs home shouting:  "The Vazaha are coming!"  Getting to the village he says that the French are burning down villages.  Everybody starts running away from the village, but grandmother is not moving out of her armchair.  She takes some pills.  The French with their black soldiers arrive at the village.  The French find the old woman dead in her chair.  Finding the village deserted, the French commander says they are in no hurry.  They will occupy the village for now.

Solo searches for food but only finds a few grubs and a few oranges.  Mother tells him that then they will eat roots again.  At night Mahandry's wife Velo joins mother and Solo by the fire.  Mother says that Solo is sick and Velo says her baby is sick too.  She has had no milk to feed him.  Mother tries to see the baby, but Velo won't let her, saying the baby is asleep now. 

During the night Velo buried her baby.   The group of three start moving.  They pass by the baby's grave.   They keep on the move. 

Women and men from the village gets in line to receive some rice from the French in the village.  The group of three return to the village and Mahandry rushes to greet them. 

Inside the school house Solo says to his friend Ndriky that he has fun out in the jungle.  Ndriky says she did not have fund.  Her brother died out there.  The French come and throw some refuse set on fire into the schoolhouse.  In the village proper the cry goes out that the school house is burning.  Mother awakens.  She runs to the school house and retrieves the two children. 

Solo goes off with a bag in his hand.   He brings some food to a nationalist soldiers.  Mom comes looking for and finds Solo.  She tells her son to go back to the village and she will stay with Baba. 

Two older village men throw rocks at the troops on a march through the jungle. 

Solo is back at the village.  Now it's Ndriky that comes running through the village.  She yells:  "The soldiers are coming back!"

The soldiers return with about six prisoner, including the stone throwers.  The French commander says:  "All the rebels have been killed or captured."  He makes the case that the rebels were using wooden weapons against French machine guns. It was sheer suicide.  One of the weapons was a wooden likeness of a gun used by Lehidy. 

Baba guides mother to the grave of her son Lehidy.  The French soldiers move out of the village.  As they leave, mother comes back into the village.  She sits down in grandmother's armchair without saying a word to Solo.


A 75 minute film on the fight for independence in Madagascar.  The focus is on one rural village on the French controlled island of Madagascar.  In the village the focus is on a mother and grandmother and mother's two sons. Lehidy and Solo.  Mother lost her husband in the fight for independence and now she is afraid that her eldest son will meet the same fate.  Older men urge caution and non-violence resistance, but Lehidy is really one to fight the French with violence.  When no one in the village will at least publicly support Lehidy's desire for a fight.  Do Lehidy has to raise his own little group of men to fight the French.  One big problem that the best weapon the natives have are just spears and spears against machine guns is a pretty suicidal mission.  This, however, does not stop the people of Madagascar and they fight. 

1500  --  European contact begins when the Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias sight the island after his ship separated from a fleet going to India.

1885  (December 17)  --  a treaty of alliance between France and Madagascar is signed by Madagascar Queen Ranavalona III.

1895  --  the French invade and take over Madagascar.

1940  --  after France falls to the Germans, the Vichy government administers Madagascar until 1942.

1942  --  British Empire troops occupy the island in the Battle of Madagascar in order to preclude its seizure by the Japanese.

1943  --  Britain hands over the island to Free French Forces.

1948  --  the French government, headed by Prime Minister Paul Ramadier, suppresses the Madagascar nationalist revolt.

1956  --  after passage of the Loi Cadre (Overseas Reform Act),  Madagascar moves peacefully toward independence.

1958  --  the Malagasy Republic becomes an autonomous state within the French Community.

1960  --  Madagascar becomes fully independent.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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