Raoul Peck’s Moloch Tropical

bighenri-christophe3Haitian-born director Raoul Peck is presently working on his new film, Moloch Tropical, based on the sociopolitical atmosphere during the last 24 hours that marked the undoing of the kingdom of Henri-Christophe, one of the major leaders of the Haitian Revolution, through which Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804.

After the war of independence, Haiti was ruled from 1804 to 1806, first as a republic and then as a monarchy, by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who proclaimed himself Emperor Jacques I of Haiti. After Dessalines’ assassination, the country was divided into two parts and ruled by Alexandre Pétion, also known Papa Bon Coeur [Father Good Heart] in the West and South and Henri-Christophe, also known as Le Bâtisseur [The Builder], in the North. In 1811, establishing a monarchy in Northern Haiti and proclaiming himself Henri I, he set out to build a nation that could fend for itself economically and militarily in order to thwart the French and other colonial powers. Therefore, Christophe built the Citadelle Laferrière, numerous mansions and palaces such as The Palace of Sans-Souci and the Palace of 365 Doors, thus earning his nickname.  Admired by some for his success in rebuilding an economy that was devastated after years of revolutionary war and for trying to promote education, he was reviled for his harsh policies, having chosen to prolong the old plantation system, and for using the citizenry as virtual slaves for his agricultural and building projects. Rather than face the imminent uprising against his reign, King Henri-Christophe shot himself. He was buried within the walls of the Citadelle Laferrière. It is the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere, and along with Sans Souci, has been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1982.

Henri-Christophe has been an inspiration to many writers such as Graham Montague Jeffries (Drums of Destiny, 1946), Covelle Newcomb (Black Fire: A Story of Henri Christophe, 1940), Alejo Carpentier (El reino de este mundo [The Kingdom of This World] 1949), Aimé Césaire (La Tragédie du Roi Christophe, 1963), and Derek Walcott (The Haitian Trilogy, 2002), among others.

Although Raoul Peck’s Moloch Tropical is fictional, set in a modern milieu, and “not about Christophe,” according to the director, it will be filmed at the La Citadelle Laferrière, the famous fortress built by Henri-Christophe.  With dialogue in Creole, French, and English, the screenplay is co-authored by Haitian writer, director, and actor, Jean-René Lemoine, and produced by Peck.  The cast, including Haitian and non-Haitian actors, will feature Sonia Rolland, Zinedine Soualem, Mireille Métellus, and Jimmy Jean-Louis (better known in the United States for his role as “The Haitian”-the unnamed man with the power to erase people’s memories-in the Heroes series), and Haitian singer Emmeline Michel.

Moloch Tropical is Raoul Peck’s sixth feature-length film, including Lumumba (2000) and Sometimes in April (2005), but he has directed many films made for television, documentaries, and experimental videos. Many of his other films have dealt with topics related to Haitian history. Some of these include New York ist nicht Haiti [Haitian Corner] (1988), L’Homme sur les quais [The Man by the Shore] (1993), Desounen: Dialogue with Death (1994), Haiti: The Silence of the Dogs (1994), Corps Plongés [It’s Not About Love] (1998), and Profit & Nothing But! Or Impolite Thoughts on the Class Struggle (2001).

For a full article on the upcoming film (in French), see http://www.caribcreole1.com/news/haiti/1,1066,09-032009haiti-un-nouveau-film-politique-de-raoul-peck.html

13 thoughts on “Raoul Peck’s Moloch Tropical

  1. Even in your country’s height of economic crisis, you are able to bring history to the big screen. I was not only overwhelmed but interested in learning the socio-political atmosphere in Haiti during the 100s. Moloch Tropical is a must see for schools in the Caribbean.

  2. Rebecca Theodore has suggested that this movie should be placed on the curriculum of Caribbean history for schools in the Caribbean and I totally agree. Can someone join me in starting a blog to push this matter to CXC officials?

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