JULIE – Joyce de Badts – IND – Belgium

subtitled video | 38 min


Synopsis

Julie is born in Congo in 1951.
At this time, Congo is still a colony of Belgium.
The first seven years she grows up in a world which she recalls as paradise, surrounded by beautiful nature and being boundlessly free.
She isn’t aware that she is different from most other children, lighter skinned.
She is the child of a white man and a black woman.
Her father owned a plantation near Lake Kivu and her mother worked on the plantation.

When Congo attains independence, conflicts erupt and white people start escaping the country.
But then the question rises: what to do with these half white children? According to Belgians this white blood wasn’t allowed to grow up between heathen ‘negroes’.
These children had to be saved and were taken from their mothers.
First they were brought to Catholic orphanages after which they were transported to Belgium and were placed with foster families or into boarding schools.

Julie remembers everything in great detail, but it took her many years to find a way of learning to deal with everything she was put through.
Her testimony serves as an example of the adaptive and resilient qualities of the human spirit.

In April 2019 the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel offered an official apology to the mixed-race children who were put through so much suffering.

Produced by

Joyce de Badts

Joyce de Badts is a Belgian radio maker. She has produced documentary features for the major radio broadcaster in the Netherlands and for online podcasts. In 2018, she won an award at the HearSay International Audio Arts Festival for a short audioportait called ‘Helene’.


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17 thoughts on “JULIE – Joyce de Badts – IND – Belgium

  1. OPENING STATEMENT

    It is an unusual story about cultural differences, divisions, and obstacles faced by Metis people in the 1960s.
    It is a story about life where – in the author’s opinion – nothing is accidental, and about hope which makes life meaningful.
    Julie is a mature woman who, in the story, returns to the times of her childhood.
    The times marked by cruelty and injustice, particularly when we realise how little she was when she was taken away from her family home and forced to love new mother and father – the torturer.
    The story is engrossing from the very first minutes.
    The main figure is trustworthy.
    Her voice is full of emotions which perfectly match with the music.
    Extra sounds in the background harmonize with the main figure’s pace of speech and enhance the drama for the audience.
    Julie’s story is very stimulating for the imagination – as we are listening to it, we can easily visualise the presented scenes.

    But is it enough?
    Wouldn’t we like to hear the biological mother and father or the foster parents?
    Wouldn’t we like to ask them some questions?
    Is the form of in-depth interview chosen by the author convincing for us?

    1. Dear Magda, thank you for your comment and your careful listening. Julie’s biological parents are indeed not alive anymore. In the meeting the maker’s livestream I was too nervous to give a proper answer to the question why I did’t give more information in a voice-over about the background of Belgian colonialism. Of course this was something I thought about a lot. But I thought I would be better to focus on Julie’s point of view, on her own experience without trying to reveil ‘the truth’. For example: when she talks about the love between her biological parents, my first reactions was: historians have documented massive abuse of Congolese women by white men. So ‘love’ is very doubtful. But who am I to ‘explain’ this to the listener? And who am I to say there was no love possible? I still don’t know if this was the right approach and I do understand you wanting to know more. Still, I’m not sure if giving more background information would have made this a better documentary…

    2. Dear Magda, thank you for your careful listening. Julie’s biological parents are not alive anymore. In the meeting the maker’s livestream I was too nervous to give a proper answer to the question why I did’t give more information in a voice-over about the background of Belgian colonialism. Of course this was something I thought about a lot. But I thought I would be better to focus on Julie’s point of view, on her own experience without trying to reveil ‘the truth’. For example: when she talks about the love between her biological parents, my first reactions was: historians have documented massive abuse of Congolese women by white men. So ‘love’ is very doubtful. But who am I to ‘explain’ this to the listener? And who am I to say there was no love possible? I still don’t know if this was the right approach and I do understand you wanting to know more.

    1. Dear Katarzyna. Thank you for your comment and careful listening. As I replied above: Julie’s biological parents are indeed not alive anymore. In the meeting the maker’s livestream I was too nervous to give a proper answer to the question why I did’t give more information in a voice-over about the background of Belgian colonialism. Of course this was something I thought about a lot. But I thought I would be better to focus on Julie’s point of view, on her own experience without trying to reveil ‘the truth’. For example: when she talks about the love between her biological parents, my first reactions was: historians have documented massive abuse of Congolese women by white men. So ‘love’ is very doubtful. But who am I to ‘explain’ this to the listener? And who am I to say there was no love possible? I still don’t know if this was the right approach and I do understand you wanting to know more. Still, I’m not sure if giving more background information would have made this a better documentary…

  2. I guess we don´t hear Julia´s parents because they are not alive anymore – she herself is soon going to celebrate 70.

    Joyce, thank you for the piece. I was surprised how easily I was following it although it was based just on one voice rebuilding the whole story, with just few questions of interviewer and no live scenes (except the final one with the photo). The sound landscape you have built around the story is very well crafted and was smoothly guiding me through all of the 40 minutes.

    Of course, maybe I would like to hear more from people kidnapping these children, running the orphanages, adopting the children – but I guess their motivations and memories are part of the public discussion coping with this part of history. Is it? Did the Prime Minister follow a discussion that already took place or did he trigger it? And is this the first time Julia´s story was published?

    Anyway I find a certain beauty in the simplicity of your approach. Good job!

    1. Dear Martina, thank you for your comment. The discours about colonialism is a very sensitive one indeed. The motivations for the kidnapping were mind-blowing in their simplicity: they really believed the Métis had to be saved from the ‘savage’ black population. The Prime Minister followed a discussion that already took place.

  3. We admire the wonderful storytelling by Julie, compliments for the author who led this interview – there have been so many vivid strong images. Only in the end we think that there are some aspects missing: Has Julie forgiven her abusive foster father? Did she ever speak with him or her mother about the abuse?

    1. Dear Elisabeth, thank you for listening. Julie’s story is really so complex that even I remain with many questions. After the piece had been broadcast, Julie told me she has put up a photo of her foster-father and that she has forgiven him, but will never forget. She never talked about the abuse with her foster mother. The relationship with her foster parents is very complex and at the time of the interview, her answers to my questions concerning the foster parents were not consistent and I felt this trauma was still tender. I left this part out of the documentary.

  4. And also: have there been any official compensations from the belgium governement? We do not miss the other voices (mother, father) – but some comments from Julie to this topics.

  5. Very beautiful piece, thank you for this testimony which allows us to approach with precision and sensitivity several aspects of colonial violence. I missed a little bit to hear some mouvement and depth in the recordings, but there are some sound “games” with Julie’s voice that work well and underline her luminous character. Personally, I don’t think that other people’s testimonies or explanations from experts are missing : it could certainly be interesting but it would be a different approach and thus a different piece. Here, it is Julie that we listen to, and we don’t need other people for her voice to be of great value. This is also what the apparent simplicity of the approach highlights for me.
    Julie’s way of telling her memories is very strong, with a poetic attention to details : can you tell us about how you interviewed her? Have you set up particular “rules”? Thanks!

  6. Julie is an amazing storyteller. What a wise survivor, despite everything. Sober and efficient musical treatment. And yes, some questions are left unanswered. On the other hand any programme should breath, needs air. Can not be stuffed by too much material. I would not make “Julie” any longer but rather find another solution for other essential questions and socially and politically very relevant meta-information. (podcast -series do have this possibility).

    1. Dear Edwin, thank you for your comment. I admire your work very much and I hope you did not see my ‘meet the makers’ because I was so incredibly nervous that I couldn’t utter a sensible word!

      If there is one thing I would change in this piece, it is to leave more silence and more time to reflect. I feel it is very stuffed with information and that it goes too fast.

      Hartelijke groeten, Joyce

  7. Dear Joyce, your choices were very right because very intuitive. There is a limit to what a listener can take in 30 minutes. And once a device of a radio course of mine (paraphrasing a Canadian folksinger) was ” Everything has been said, but not by me”. I would add , Additional elements should be added by other people than the author. Don’t blame her/him for being concise, essential, and respecting the natural flow of telling a story. And for being slow. A good programme invites for comments and extra thoughts and background information. The author opens the door half way.

  8. Hello, thank you for this beautiful documentary about Julie. Her story is unbelievable to me and thus I listened to it very closely. Her early life feels horrible but as she said, God had helped her to overcome it and now she looks quite happy. I really liked that almost only Julie´s voice was heard because, as you said in the Meet the Makers video call, that´s her who tells the story and for me it was very pleasant because I felt like sitting next to her and listening to her nice voice. I also like the way you used the music: when Julie was speaking, it made a nice background sound, and as the storytelling got more dramatic, the music intensified and supported the message. Thank you once again for your work, I really enjoyed it!

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