The Haiti Film Fest, presented by New York-based arts organization Haiti Cultural Exchange, will launch today Thursday May 11 and will continue through May 14. Among the films being screened on May 12, is Minutes to Say Hi, a short. Filmmaker Easmanie Michel, the screenwriter-director behind the project, took some time out of her schedule to talk more about Minutes to Say Hi.
Kreyolicious: Minutes to Say Hi your latest project came about how?
Easmanie Michel: During my last semester at NYU, I took a filmmaking class where we had to write and direct a short film. I had been writing Minutes to Say Hi as a short story about the time period when I moved to the United States with my father and my younger sister in the eighties. I decided to adapt the short story into a script. The story is about an eleven-year-old girl who is approaching puberty without her mom who was left behind in Haiti. During that year where I was separated from my mother, our only form of communication was via a pay phone. At that time, long distance phone calls were quite expensive so we could only afford to talk to her for a short period of time.
I vividly remember the recorded operator’s voice that would periodically warn us that we were running out time by announcing how many minutes we had left. In Minutes to Say Hi, I tried to capture a significant moment in a young girl’s life of adjusting to a new culture and maturity without her mother.
Kreyolicious: What’s the best thing about being part of this festival?
Easmanie Michel: The best part of Haiti Film Fest is being introduced to the Haitian filmmakers who are creating works in Haiti. I remember the first time I attended Haiti Film Fest and how I was left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude while watching the myriad of films about Haitians living in Haiti.
I applaud Haiti Cultural Exchange for their steadfast commitment to help Haitian filmmakers and films about Haiti reach not only the Haitian audience, but also the wider community.
It is easy for filmmaking to be regarded as a frivolous activity especially when there are so many pressing needs in the Haitian community. However, it is my belief that cinema – the moving image – has an extraordinary ability to be transcendental. It can reveal perspectives on Haitian lives the that may help dismantle the stereotypical images of Haitians that constantly saturates mainstream media.
Kreyolicious: With technology changing faster your can say Minutes to Say Hi…what do you envision will happen to the film industry as a result?
Easmanie Michel: I recently attended an IFP “Meet the Decision Maker” workshop in Brooklyn where the attendees were given opportunities to speak to representative from a New York City film sales company. We were told that the company’s main initiative was specializing in director-driven work that would have a festival and theatrical run. This seemed to go against the ongoing message in the media that this strategy is being phased out. So even though digital platforms such as Netflix has become increasingly mainstream, this model will continue to exist.
Also, there seems to be a new twist to the movie viewing experience that will keep theatrical releases alive, especially with indie and experimental narratives. I recently watched a documentary at this place called Metrograph in the Lower East Side. It was a different experience than your usual movie going night since the place was comfortable and included a bookstore and a restaurant to boot. Similarly, a place in Williamsburg, Nitehawk Cinema, has the same setup. It would then seem that ambience is slowly become a key component in the indie film making structure thus making it more of an immersive experience.
As far as the business of film is concerned, I think that although filmmakers have the ability to reach a far wider audience than before with social media, etc…the amount of people creating content still makes it difficult to get independent films made without the help of larger companies, digital or otherwise who really only want to invest in films that can guarantee a profit. Of course, cultivating an audience, especially with complex or innovative stories with social media, now becomes a facet of the overall process and can be brought to the table.
I am an advocate for focus on auxiliary products. Not only can it help the filmmaker and other stakeholders make more of a profit on their film, but it also adds to the “experience” I just mentioned. Sometimes, undue attention to this part can contribute to the pitfall of lukewarm narratives, but in light of filmmakers having the power to do their own marketing, product placement and so on this opens up greater autonomy. This is all hard work in addition to the miracle of making a film. One has to weigh it out – the pros and cons, but more options are better than less.
Minutes to Say Hi by filmmaker Easmanie Michel will screen May 12 Friday, at the | Five Myles Gallery 558 St. John’s Place, Brooklyn, NY 11238 | 6:00 to 9:00pm | CLICK HERE to Visit the Haiti Cultural Exchange website to learn more!