Haitian-American Filmmaker Rachelle Salnave and La Belle Vie (The Good Life)

Haitianbeatz.com recently featured Haitian-American filmmaker Rachelle Salnave and her film La Belle Vie: The Good Life (2011). Her documentary is about her journey to discover her Haitian roots “by examining the complexities of the Haitian society as it pertains to the overall political and economic dichotomy in Haiti.” See description below and excerpts of Salnave’s rationale for writing and directing this film:

Using her own personal family stories, interconnected with [. . .] the voices of Haitians and experts overall, this film chronologically uncovers the rationale behind its social class system but also how it has affected the Haitian American migration experience as well. With the proliferation of political turmoil, poverty, and now an earthquake shattered nation, La Belle Vie: The Good Life in the end beckons all to lay down their arms, be it the tangible weapons of death and pain or the psychological and spiritual tools of division and prejudice, and work as one to rebuild and prosper in the name of a new and stronger Haiti. [. . .]

I was born in Harlem to Haitian parents. They both left Haiti many years ago due in part to the political unrest during the time of President Francois Duvalier era. They assimilated to American life and found a circle of family and friends that has kept them connected to their Haitian Heritage. As a kid, I travelled to Haiti a few times for vacation and special events. I always loved the time that I spent there. It was truly “La Belle Vie,” a beautiful life.

As I travel back to Haiti now to understand my roots as an adult, I discovered that Haitian’s I talked to on the street called me a “Jaspora” or “Blan.” For the most part, I was considered a “Blan” because my creole is very bad and just by looking at me they said they could tell I am a “foreigner.” This pained me for some days because I could not understand why my people thought of me as an “outsider” especially knowing how much I loved my country. I also certainly did not understand why they chose the word “Blan” (white) as a term to call someone who grew up in Harlem. I also never liked being called “Jaspora” because I always thought it implied another classification, another division that kept people thinking that people of Haitian descent living abroad were somehow a step above those living in Haiti.

After learning that the word “Blan” has nothing to do with race, I began to really analyze . . . how am I really perceived when I go to Haiti? From the perspective of the people who live on the streets, people do have lots of hope in Haitian’s abroad. They are waiting for my generation to invest in their country. Implement our skillsets on every level to assist in rebuilding. When I talk to the Haitian’s who do run companies and have great jobs in Haiti, they too await for the people abroad to partner with the country to make their workload a little lighter.

See trailer at http://vimeo.com/17227743

For full article, see http://www.haitianbeatz.com/hb-news-and-entertainment.html

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