Belle-ile in Acadie
Belle-ile in Acadie is a heartwarming documentary about the World Acadian Congress – a festival held every five years to celebrate the culture and history of Acadia, a former New French colony. In 1755, the British expelled thousands of Acadians from Acadia and deported many of them to Virginia. Virginia in turn denied the Acadians entry, leading them to then be sent to detention camps in England. Eventually, the refugees were released and almost half the survivors migrated to Belle-ile-en-Mer in Brittany, France, while others were spread throughout Canada and Cajun Louisiana.
The film chronicles the way Acadians farmed the land in their newfound homes and how they were able to make new villages for themselves. It’s truly amazing to hear the stories of these people who were kicked out of their homeland but still managed to thrive in a foreign environment. The short shines a light on a sliver of history and humanity that is largely unknown to those who are not of Acadian heritage.
That being said, the director did a great job showing that this documentary is more than just a history lesson. It shows the descendants of the Acadians coming to the World Acadian Congress and the importance of getting in touch with ones’ roots. “It will be a chance to meet the entire Acadian diaspora,” one traveler proclaims. The short shows people reuniting with long-lost relatives and bonding with strangers over their shared roots. Multiple generations of families – from grandparents to grandkids – take this voyage to visit the homeland of their ancestors. You can see the strong emotions on their faces as they are toured through various Acadian landmarks and feel a deep connection with their ancestors. “It feels like home,” is something that the visitors find themselves saying often.
Many of the attendees talk about how inspired they are by the story of their refugee ancestors. A few mention that it’s been their dream to trace their family tree and partake in this festival. It is powerful and affecting to watch these people come in touch with their roots. There is a beautiful comradery shown, and it made me yearn to connect with my own past in a similar way. “You’re all part of the great Acadian family,” one person proclaims in a speech – and the short really makes it feel like those words are true. They all really do feel entwined by their shared heritage, no matter how distantly related they may be.
Throughout the documentary, the cinematography is great, as there are breathtaking shots of this beautiful island. Even without being an Acadian, it’s easy to see how this lush greenery and vast open spaces could move the group that has come to visit their homeland. The short also shows National Acadian Day, consisting of a parade of waving flags, blowing whistles, and people rejoicing in their heritage. The film ends with a group retracing their ancestors’ footsteps at the Grand-Pre in Nova Scotia. It is an emotionally resonant way to end a film packed with poignance and sentimentality.