Saturday, January 21, 2012
Historically, the DeWolf family qualified as the largest slave-trading family in pre-Civil War North America - a difficult and upsetting fact for the clan's modern-day descendants to face. With the documentary Traces of the Trade, one of those individuals, director Katrina Browne (who co-helms with Jude Ray), joins with nine other DeWolf descendants to explore the heartbreaking story of their bellicose familial history; in the process, the participants encounter the sobering realization that slave-trading not only provided economic sustenance for their own families, but served as a commercial foundation for life in the northern states per se. The film finds Browne and co. journeying from Rhode Island, where the DeWolf empire was headquartered, to Ghana, where the descendants of slaves experience decidedly bittersweet homecomings, to a now-dilapidated Cuban sugar plantation; at each step along the way, the travelers struggle to come to terms with the implications of their findings. Traces of the Trade was screened as part of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.