Miami Film Festival shines a spotlight on Haiti

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Jacqueline Charles (Miami Herald) about a few of the seven Haiti-themed films due to screen at the 34th edition of Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival, which began today and runs through March 12: Serenade for Haiti, directed by Owsley Brown; Liberty in a Soup, directed by Dudley Alexis; Empty Box, by Mexican-Haitian filmmaker Claudia Sainte-Luce; and Cargo, by Kareem J. Mortimer. Here are excerpts:

When filmmaker Owsley Brown set out to explore Haitian identity through music, he assumed it would take a couple of years. Never, however, did he imagined it would be 10. But Brown’s 70-minute documentary, “Serenade for Haiti,” which opens three years before the country’s catastrophic Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that left more than 300,000 dead, an equal number injured and 1.5 million homeless, took a decade to complete.

The documentary follows teachers and students from Sainte Trinité Music School in Port-au-Prince. Through their eyes, Brown shows music’s saving grace and the resiliency of the Haitian spirit before and after the renowned Episcopalian school crumbled in the disaster. “By modern U.S. standards, this is a really difficult life the people connected to the school are leading,” Brown said. “But because of music, they are some of the healthiest human beings. By healthy, I mean, happy, well, resilient and strong.”

[. . .] Among the filmmakers represented are Brown, who had already made two music-focused films before “Serenade for Haiti,” Hollywood actor and producer Jimmy Jean-Louis and Miami-based filmmaker Dudley Alexis. Alexis, who moved to the United States from Haiti as a teen, is making his directorial debut at the festival with his film, “Liberty in a Soup.” The film explores the history of pumpkin soup or soup joumou, Haiti’s traditional Jan. 1 Independence Day meal.

“Haiti has a lot of talented people, and people should be aware of it,” said Jean-Louis, echoing a point raised in “Serenade.” That theme has been repeated at a number of recent film festivals, including Toronto, where for the first time in recent memory, three films (including “I Am Not Your Negro” by Oscar-nominated Raoul Peck) directed by Haitian filmmakers were screened.

Best known for his role as “the Haitian” on the NBC television series “Heroes” and as Toussaint in “Joy,” which earned Jennifer Lawrence a 2016 Best Actress Oscar nomination, Jean-Louis has three films in the Miami festival. There is “Empty Box” by Mexican-Haitian filmmaker Claudia Sainte-Luce, in which Jean-Louis plays an undocumented Haitian migrant suffering from dementia embroiled in a conflicted relationship with his adult daughter who knows nothing about her Haitian culture or identity. The second is “Cargo,” which also features Haiti-born actress Gessica Généus and addresses the trauma Haitians undergo when embarking on dangerous sea voyages in rickety boats in search of a new life. This is the first time that “Cargo,” which was partly shot in the Bahamas, is being screened at a film festival.

“With this movie, I really want people to sympathize, and I want to humanize Haitians. We have to be able to look at Haitians as normal human beings,” Jean-Louis said.

The third film “Everything But a Man,” which not only stars Jean-Louis but was also co-produced by him along with Nnegest Likké. The film, which also stars Monica Calhoun (“The Best Man” franchise), is about a self-made African-American career woman who has everything — except a man. It was partly shot in Haiti and has screened at several festivals in the United States and Europe. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/movies-news-reviews/article135927633.html

2 thoughts on “Miami Film Festival shines a spotlight on Haiti

  1. This news makes me smile and uplifts my spirit. Kudos to Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival for featuring these documentaries as part of their “World-class lineup of stars and wonderful film screenings”.

    I am a alumni from College Classique Feminin in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Class of 94-95. But music was my passion and I wanted to professionally play the violin. The only well known institute was Sainte Trinity Music School. It was one of the best events in my childhood when I enrolled at Ecole de Musique de Sainte Trinite to finally learn the violin. Singing and playing music help me through difficult times. Thank you Owsley Brown for Serenad Pou Ayiti. I became so emotional seeing the trailer. Yes we have so much talents. #proudhaitian

    1. Re post – correction

      “I am an alumni from College Classique Feminin in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Class of 94-95.”

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