If you’re like me, you probably like Haitian movies a little. Maybe a lot. Maybe a whole, whhhhhhhhhhole lot. I have to say that one of my most cherished memories of the past couple of years has been sitting down with my grandmother and watching Haitian movies together. Or stopping by a Haitian store to pick up some for her viewing pleasure. Sometimes, I buy Haitian movies I never really sit down to see; I buy just to support. But wow, at some point it got to the point where I couldn’t possibly buy, whether to support or not! I had to admit to myself, some of these productions were, well, rather horrendous, just judging from the packaging and the trailers. Oh, and the plot lines. And the acting.
The actor Lentz Jerry Rocher told Movie Lakay in an interview that it seems that everyone who’s filmed a communion one Sunday are convinced that they can film a movie the next day. His statement really conveys the thought of many about the Haitian movie industry. The Haitian movie industry isn’t producing as fast as Haitian movie buyers would want them to, and some seeing this as an opportunity, put together “movies”, that are not up to standards to satisfy that demand.
To hear some talk, one would think that there is no Haitian movie industry. But slowly, a lot of things are happening behind the scenes to revive what some called the Haitian Cinema Renaissance of the early 2000s. The actress and mogul Fabienne Colas has said that she’s working on a project that may lend a hand in resuscitating the cinema, while Richard Sénécal has hinted at something along those lines. Haitian cinema is not on the same level as Hollywood of course in terms of revenue, but it clearly has something Hollywood may not have a lot of: original stories. Exploring new themes and new markets seems to be a big preoccupation with many involved in the Haitian movie industry—without being overly too experimental of course.
Mon Dieu, Mon Amour, one of the most recently released movies in Haiti (news reports have indicated that Haiti’s last surviving movie theaters have closed down, so perhaps we should rephrase that), is a story of redemption, and probably one of the first religious-themed movies (behind Alelouya and Le Miracle de la Foi). And speaking of the former, Richard Arens announced recently that he’s remaking Alelouya, with the same storyline and same cast, but with a bigger budget and improved technical means. Arens is actually doing the first Haitian movie remake, although at one point we speculated that the film Le Cap a La Une had all the potential for a remake.
After Pluie D’espoir, Jacques Roc is ready to fry bigger fish, mainly a chick flick Emilia. Meanwhile, directors like Jean-Alix Homand, Jean-Rony Lubin and Wilfort Estimable are hustling it in Canada. Haitian-themed films made in Canada are really popular among the Haitian community in the USA, but make no mistake, Haitian movie buyers and movie watchers tend to favor the ones made in Haiti. What’s lacking is the presence of women Haitian filmmakers. Now, we know of people like Patricia Benoit, but Ms. Benoit doesn’t operate out of Haiti; neither does Francette Agnant, the writer and producer of the Oasis trilogy. Anne Lescot, Michèle Lemoine, and Rachel Magloire mostly stick with documentaries and shorts for now. This is definitely one of the things that we must see change during the next wave.
And the time it takes from the final edit of a film to its release. The most anticipated film among Haitians is of course the I Love You Anne sequel We Love You Anne, but the film’s release seems to be taking forever, to the exasperation and irritation of many. Better planning, and distribution should definitely part of the mechanics towards an improved Haitian movie industry.
When all is said and done, there is indeed hope for the Haitian movie industry, and the very idea that we may be on to a new wave, another renaissance is so very exciting.
Images: Kharmeliaud Moise; movie still from Le President a-t-il Le Sida.