To the villagers of Sitabaomba in Madagascar, French is not a language of love, but the language of colonization. They use French when they command zebu oxen to turn left and right in the field, and the Malagasy language when they tell stories from the heart. Intersecting camera footage with animation, puppetry and kabary—the Malagasy oratorical art—Where Zebus Speak French follows Ly and his fellow villagers and records their struggle to secure their land against violations from the state, military generals and multinational corporations.
“We shall be like the banana tree, yielding sweet fruits at the end of its life. We shall be like bees, leaving honey before dying,” Ly orates in front of his audience. In the background, we see a tractor bulldozing fields of lettuce, a road project displacing families, and luxury buildings taking the place of rice paddies.
Lands that the villagers have been cultivating for about fifty years and hope to acquire officially, began to be taken from them in 2016 and
2018 under unjust and murky laws. While they organize and protest, they have not forgotten to sing, dance, and—together with the children—create their own tales.