Furcy, the trial for freedom

Research work, a book, an exhibition, theatre plays, a film etc. The story of the slave Furcy, who was freed and then spent his life struggling to obtain the status of a man born free, continues to inspire our contemporaries.


In 2019, to close the commemorations of the 170th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the Departmental Council of Reunion presented at the Villèle museum, the museum of the history of the estate and of slavery, an original exhibition entitled ‘The strange story of Furcy Madeleine 1786-1856’. The exhibition was granted the label of ‘Exhibition of national interest’.

A 52-minute film, entitled Furcy, le procès de la Liberté (Furcy, the trial for freedom), written and directed by Pierre Lane, came out in 2021. It was broadcast through the channel ‘Outre-mer 1ère’ on 13th May, in the context of the national day of commemoration of the slave trade, slavery and their abolition and to mark the 20th anniversary of the French law entitled ‘loi Taubira’.

A 27-year-long legal struggle

In 1817 on Bourbon island, the slave Furcy dared challenge his master Lory concerning his status of slave, claiming to have been born free of Madeleine, his Indian mother who should have been freed when she travelled to France several years previously.

For over a quarter of a century, from 1817 to 1843, Furcy struggled to have his freedom recognised. His long combat first of all led him to be sent to prison on Bourbon island, then to Mauritius island, initially as a slave then as a freed slave and finally took him to Paris, where his claims were eventually recognised by the French legal system.

How was all this possible? What sort of person was Furcy?

The documentary presents the itinerary of this man of exceptional qualities. The narrative is deployed on the basis of archival documents (letters, memoranda, minutes), as well as accounts by historians and animated comic strips.
The story of his extraordinary life in Reunion, Mauritius and Paris is pieced together little by little like a puzzle, with all its unexpected turns of event, its mysteries and also its ambiguities.

It is the story of a man who stood alone, at the heart of the turmoil around slavery, a system which crushed the lives of millions of persons. It is the story of a man standing firm with his convictions: he wanted justice to be done, the story of a man claiming his membership of the human race, his emancipation, his uniqueness as a human being. It is the story of a man named Furcy who, after so many trials and tribulations, took on a new name: Furcy Madeleine, an act of dignity refused him for so many years.


Written and directed by Pierre Lane
Produced by Fabienne Servan Schreiber and Estelle Mauriac (Cinétévé)
In co-production with Gao Shan Pictures and France Télévisions
The film was available on replay until 12/06/2021

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