Interview with Jimmy Jean-Louis

Television and film star Jimmy Jean-Louis has appeared in feature films in the Caribbean, France, and the United States. Last month, he was chosen as the representative/godfather of the 4th international film festival Cinamazonia, which took place on November 19-24 in French Guiana.

Born in Pétionville, Haiti, in 1968, he spent his adolescence in Paris, where his parents had relocated. Later, he lived in various countries, such as Italy, England, and South Africa, working as an international model, dancer, and actor. He moved to the United States in 1998 where he first obtained a role in Jean Claude Van Damme’s Derailed, which set the stage for subsequent roles with other Hollywood A-listers. He went on to shoot Tears of the Sun with Bruce Willis and Monica Belluci, Hollywood Homicide with Harrison Ford, Monster-in-Law with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez, The Miracle Match with Patrick Stewart, Wes Bentley, and Gerard Butler, and Phat Girlz, where he starred opposite Monique Imes Jackson. In 2006, he became a household name as “The Haitian” in the NBC series Heroes. Jean-Louis also continues to accept roles in Caribbean films such as the new films Moloch tropical by Raoul Peck and Orpailleur [The Gold Forest] by Guianese director Marc Barrat. He recently accepted to represent Cinemazonia as part of his desire to continue promoting the arts of the Caribbean and Overseas Territories.

Here is an excerpt of his recent interview with What are your views on cinema in the Caribbean and French Guiana?
Jimmy Jean-Louis: It is a film industry that has difficulties because it is not supported at the national level, at the level of distribution and funding. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that it progresses. With more money, it will be as solid as cinema from United States and Europe. What is certain is that we have extraordinary stories to tell. I live in Los Angeles, but I remain close to [Caribbean] cinema. I’ve played in Arnold Antonin’s Le président a-t-il le sida? [Does the President have AIDS?] and Richard Sénécal’s Cousines—two Haitian films from 2006. I’ve also filmed with Christian Lara in Le mystère Joséphine [The Josephine Mystery] (2008); Christian Lara is the first to direct a film in Guadeloupe. This year I’ve filmed in Orpailleur by Marc Barrat, the first film from French Guiana. So oddly, I live far from the Caribbean but I remain in close contact. [. . .]

*** You will be on the marquis next year with Orpailleur, by Guianese Marc Barrat, and Moloch Tropical, by Haitian Raoul Peck. What have you drawn from these experiences?
Jimmy Jean-Louis:  I’ve worked with 100% pros. Two films have made me discover countries, magnificent places. In French Guiana, the forest. In Haiti, the Cap Haïtien Citadel. A marvel! These are two films of which I am very proud. The messages that they send are very strong. The first speaks of the need to preserve nature and eliminate clandestine gold mining; the second, Moloch tropical, [speaks of] the abuse of power in every sense of the word. These are films which may promote progress for both countries, and even for humanity. These are films made in small countries, but that still touch everyone. This is why there should be more films in the islands and in the overseas territories.

*** You remain truly attached to Haiti, the country where you were born and where you spent part of your childhood. You created Hollywood Unites for Haïti (HUFH) and you are Goodwill Ambassador to the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). How do you help your country tangibly?

Jimmy Jean-Louis: As Goodwill Ambassador for the children of Haiti, I represent these children; I make noise; I go to Washington; I defend their cause in many events. Hollywood Unites for Haiti is an association that I created to help disadvantaged children [to have access to] sports and culture, areas with which I am familiar. We were able to provide athletic equipment and computer materials to associations that needed them. A goal of HUFH is to build a cultural and sports center for children in Pétionville, Port-au-Prince, and then reproduce this center in other areas of Haiti. The idea is to get the children out of their daily hardships in order to reduce vandalism, to train real professionals, and to create teamwork among these children. Team spirit is very important for success.

For full interview, see

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