UNICEF challenged young Haitian filmmakers to reveal how they view their country – and its conditions for children – two years after the January 2010 earthquake. Report by Mariana Palavra. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 12 January 2012
VIDEO: Watch Pierre Lucson Bellegarde’s film, ‘The Compass’, about a woman who was seriously injured in the 2010 earthquake.
“This film project is all about listening to the Haitian voice and understanding children’s lives,” said Thomas Nybo, coordinator of the project. “We issued a call for short-film proposals, either fiction or documentaries, and we chose four filmmakers, three of whom are from Cine Institute” – Haiti’s only film school, located in the Southern city of Jacmel.
The short films feature some of the biggest challenges facing Haiti’s children: losing parents to the earthquake; the plight of a girl working as a restavek, a domestic servant; and the challenges, especially economic, confronting families when they send their children to school.
A range of perspectives
The filmmakers came at the project from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.
“One of the filmmakers, Pierre Lucson Bellegarde, profiled an older woman who was seriously injured in the earthquake, and adopted two children after the quake, despite living in a camp and being of limited financial means,” said Mr. Nybo.
VIDEO: Michelle Marrion’s film, ‘The Stray, features a young domestic servant hired as a professional mourner.
Mr. Bellegarde became interested in the arts at the age of 7, while he was recovering from surgery.
“After my operation, my best friend was a pencil and a notebook, which held all my secrets,” he said. At Ciné Institute, Mr. Bellegarde trained in cinematography, performance, script writing and sound. His work frequently focuses on the plight of marginalized communities and people living with disabilities.
Michelle Marrion took an unflinching look at a restavek enlisted to be a professional ‘crier’ at a funeral for someone she had never met.
Ms. Marion was born in the United States to Haitian parents, and studied film and photography at Howard University. In 1999, she began her first photographic project in Haiti, and subsequent projects always seemed to bring her back to the country. Since 2009, she has split her time between Haiti and the United States, and is currently working on several international multimedia projects, including a feature-length documentary taking place in Port-au-Prince.
VIDEO: Watch Ebby Angel Louis’s ‘Late for School’, a film about a father trying to get his daughter to school on time in a wheelbarrow.
Families in the aftermath
The other filmmakers explored the theme of families struggling in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Ebby Angel Louis made a playful film about an illiterate father and his mad dash to get his young daughter to school on time using his wheelbarrow.
Mr. Louis is currently a student at Ciné Institute. He grew up in Haiti’s countryside, where his family helped him cultivate an interest in storytelling.
“The countryside was a refuge for me,” he said. “At night after dinner, under a full moon, my grandmother would tell us the family stories of all our cousins.”
VIDEO: Macdala Prevot’s film, ‘A Refuge in the Garden of My Parents’, tells the story of a girl fighting to keep her family together after the death of her parents. Watch in RealPlayer
Finally, Macdala Prevot told the story of a teenage girl fighting to keep her family together after the death of her parents.
Ms. Prevot studied at Ciné Institute and has worked on several films as an art director, sound technician, cinematographer and producer. She is also a singer, and in 2010, she travelled to the United States to help record ‘We are the World,’ a song whose proceeds benefited earthquake survivors.
Together, their films offer a glimpse into the lives and struggles of Haiti’s children.
“By giving a voice to Haiti’s youth,” said UNICEF Representative in Haiti Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, “we are not only able to listen to what they want to say, but we can also encourage their creativity and we can better understand their reality.”