A report by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life News.
The fourth Haiti Film Festival kicks off with a fund raising gala and screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on May 11. The biennial event organized by the Haiti Cultural Exchange will be showing over 25 films over the course of four days, and for the first time will even recognize some notable Haitian entertainers and see a change of setting, said an organizer for the festival.
“We’ve done the festival at various venues but this year we are opening the Haiti Film Festival in a theatre for the first time and we’ll be honoring three Haitian filmmakers and actors,” said Regine M. Roumain, executive director of Haiti Cultural Exchange.
The four-day festival commences with the honoring of actor Jimmy Jean-Louis and directors Rachelle Salnave and Arnold Antonin. Afterwards the honorees are going to participate on a panel about the portrayals of Haitians on the big screen, and end with two films and a montage highlighting the work of the entertainers, said Roumain.
Screening will continue at two other venues, and are split into two events, one day for short films and two more days for feature length films. The varying genres of films — some which will be making their debut to the city — will both be entertaining and a learning experience for viewers, said Roumain.
“We have documentaries on historical figures, the deforestation in Haiti and lot of these films provide a lot of educational information on social issues affecting Haitians so there’s definitely a lot to learn,” she said.
“The films runs the gamut in terms of genre and we also have first time filmmakers and quite a few New York premieres.”
All of the films are spoken in Haitian Creole and French, but English subtitles will be displayed for every film. Being held in Brooklyn, Roumain said they made the event accessible because they wanted all potential attendees to come out and experience Haitian film and provide a platform for the filmmakers.
“We really want as many people in the community to have access to these stories and narratives and that’s why we keep these costs for free,” said Roumain. “When we chose these films we wanted to ensure a range of emerging artists and have a mix of films of films about Haiti and diaspora”
Roumain expects the new addition to the festival and special guests will encourage fruitful discussions about Haitian culture at large, and promote positive interactions.
“We have a quite a lot of filmmakers and producers attending this year and that is more than last year, so this is a great opportunity to meet with them and hear their thoughts at the panel we have happening,” she said. “I’m excited about the synergy and interacting within community and I’m excited to hear what participants say and what their reactions will be.”