Synopsis by Mark Deming
A dying desert town becomes a flashpoint for racial violence in this bizarre, over-the-top drama from France. Cicada is a fetid, arid Dogpatch that had been slowly drying up ever since a nearby river was dammed up, sending the town's farmers packing. These days, Cicada has become home to a motley band of alcoholics, petty criminals, and prostitutes, with Bob Stanley (Jacques Richard), the town's solo war veteran, one of the few with any interest in improving himself. Cicada is racially segregated, with the town's black population living under a curfew, but Bob ignores that when he invites Bessie Vance (Toto Bissainthe), an attractive African woman whom he meets at the town's ramshackle school, to join him for a dance in town. Bob is more interested in making time with Bessie than making a case for racial tolerance, but enough of Cicada's rednecks are outraged by his dalliance with a black woman that he's brutally beaten later that night. One of the culprits decides to blame the near-fatal beating on the town's black citizens, and it's not long before Cicada is on the verge of a race war. Also known as Les Tripes au Soleil, Checkerboard was written and directed by Claude Bernard-Aubert, who would later offer a more measured view of race relations with My Baby Is Black.
cross-cultural-relations, love, prejudice, racism, segregation