Haiti on Screen

In the weeks since the apocalyptic disaster that claimed thousands of lives and left countless wounded and homeless, Haiti has been made visible to Western eyes primarily as a victim, once again, of chance, poverty, and underdevelopment. In response to the tragedy and the general vacuum of knowledge about Haiti that it has exposed, this film series will present provocative and enlightening works produced by, for, or about Haitians prior to the earthquake.

This program seeks to raise awareness of the country’s history, cultural traditions, contemporary geopolitical predicament, and struggle for democracy, and to open up a dialogue about the future of cultural expression in Haiti. Films include the Chicago premiere of Moloch Tropical, the latest film by acclaimed Haitian director, Raoul Peck, and several award-winning documentaries on Haitian visual arts, literature, religion, politics and society.

Films will be screened in French, Creole and English, with English subtitles.

Organized by Doris Garraway and Christiane Rey, Department of French and Italian, Northwestern University. All screenings are free and will be presented at Block Cinema and at the Northwestern University Library. A complete list of films, screening times and venue information can be found at www.frenchanditalian.northwestern.edu/HaitiOnScreen.html.

Jacques Roumain: Passion for a Country (Jacques Roumain, la passion d'un pays)

Saturday, April 24, 2010 2:00 PM FREE
(Arnold Antonin, 2008, Haiti/Canada, video, 111 minutes)

This exploration of Haitian society of the late 19th and early 20th centuries focuses on the tormented life of one of Haiti’s most important authors and prominent political figures, Jacques Roumain, who has been called “the philosopher of hope.” In his perceptive writings, Roumain raised questions about issues facing Haiti that remain relevant today, including the future of Haitian youth. Some of his best-known works were translated by the legendary African-American poet Langston Hughes. Winner, Paul Robeson Award, FESPACO 2009.

Man by the Shore (L'Homme sur les quais)

Friday, April 30, 2010 2:00 PM FREE
(Raoul Peck, 1993, France/Haiti, 35mm, 106 minutes)

Terror inflicted by the Tonton Macoute (the private secret police of dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier in the sixties) haunts the small Haitian town where eight-year-old Sarah lives with her family. When the police target Sarah’s father, her parents are forced to flee, leaving Sarah and her sisters in the care of a convent, but are later taken in by their feisty grandmother. Through this compelling family drama, director Raoul Peck, who later became Haiti’s Minister of Culture, portrays the powerful resilience of ordinary Haitians in the face of state oppression.

Moloch Tropical Chicago premiere!

Monday, April 30, 2012 7:00 PM FREE
(Raoul Peck, 2009, France/Haiti, video, 107 minutes)

Inspired by Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s Moloch (which imagines Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun at their secluded Bavarian hideaway), Peck’s story focuses on a Haitian president who finds himself the object of popular protest but cannot face the inevitability of his fall from power. Filmed at the Citadelle Henri, the spectacular if enigmatic fortress built by Haiti's erstwhile King Christophe in the 1810s, Peck explores the temptations and contradictions of political power, evoking controversial references to contemporary Haiti. Co-written by Haitian playwright Jean-René Lemoine, the film strikes notes of Shakespearean tragedy.

Of Men and Gods

Saturday, May 1, 2010 2:00 PM FREE
(Laurence Magloire and Anne Lescot, 2002, France/Haiti, video, 52 minutes)
Laurence Magloire and Anne Lescot, 2002, France/Haiti, video, 52 minutes

Poto Mitan

Saturday, May 1, 2010 1:30 PM FREE
(Renée Bergan and Mark Schuller, 2009, USA/Haiti, video, 50 minutes)

Told through the compelling lives of five Haitian women workers and narrated by acclaimed Haitian-American author, Edwidge Danticat, Poto Mitan gives the global economy a human face. Each woman’s personal story explains neoliberal globalization, how it is gendered, and how it impacts Haiti: inhumane working/living conditions, violence, poverty, lack of education, and poor health care. These courageous women demonstrate that despite monumental obstacles in a poor country like Haiti, collective action makes change possible.

The Agronomist

Saturday, May 1, 2010 2:30 PM FREE
(Jonathan Demme, 2003, USA/Haiti, color, 90 minutes)

In The Agronomist, Academy Award-winning director Demme revisits Haiti's turbulent political history, a subject he last examined in the 1988 television documentary, Haiti Dreams of Democracy. This time, Demme narrows his focus to one particular dreamer: the late broadcast journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique, whose tireless campaign for democracy and human dignity outlasted a succession of repressive regimes. Though filmed less than four years after Dominque's still unsolved assassination, The Agronomist is not a eulogy for a fallen idealist, but a celebration of one man's effervescent optimism and passion for social justice.