by Kat Forgacs
Bloomington (January 5)-Indiana University’s La Casa and community-based Bloomington for Haiti announce an upcoming film festival to focus on the ongoing social and economic needs of people in Haiti.
The Haiti Film Festival will be held at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on January 23, 2011 to commemorate the anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and other communities in Haiti and left 1.5 million people homeless.
The film festival takes place between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the start of Black History Month and just two weeks after the anniversary of the earthquake. The impact of the earthquake on the already impoverished nation’s economy and infrastructure continues to be relevant. While the most optimistic Haiti advocates see the aftereffects as an opportunity to rebuild and re-envision the country’s foundations, reconstruction efforts are anticipated to last for decades.
Ticket prices will be $5 for students and seniors, $7.50 general admission. All admission fees to the festival will support organizations in Haiti working on the issues depicted in the films.
The Haiti Film Festival will feature three independent documentaries, including one by an IU alumnus, and a selection of short films from students of the Ciné Institute, Haiti’s only scholarship-based professional film school. Directors from the films will be present for Q&A sessions. During the festival, Indiana-based organizations will staff booths providing information about their service work in Haiti before and since the earthquake.
The first film of the festival will be “Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy” (1:30pm, 50 minutes, 2009). Director-Producer Renée Bergan will be present to lead discussion after the film. Shot in 2006-2008, “Poto Mitan” focuses on the lives of several working women and the trials they face as they attempt to support themselves and their families under oppressive conditions. The Haitian Creole term “poto mitan” is used to emphasize the importance of women in the Haitian economy, indicating that women are the “center pillars” of Haitian society. “Poto Mitan” engages with themes of women’s subjugation, worker exploitation, poverty, and resistance in the context of neoliberal globalization. The film was written and narrated by Edwidge Danticat and won the Indie Spec Best Documentary Award at the 2009 Boston International Film Festival.
The Haiti Film Festival will also feature several short documentary films conceptualized, shot, and edited by students of the Ciné Institute in Haiti’s southern city, Jacmel (3:30pm, 35 minutes, 2010). The Ciné Institute is Haiti’s only fully-funded film school that allows Haitian youth to learn documentary and narrative film-making techniques from professional filmmakers. Following the January 12 earthquake, Ciné students immediately picked up their cameras and returned to the field to document the effects of the earthquake on their neighbors and community. Their work offers unprecedented insight into the impact of natural disasters on everyday life. The personal narratives told through these films demonstrate the scale of this event and the determination of its survivors to carry on.
The next film in the festival lineup is “When the Ground Stopped Shaking,” a moving documentary about the effects of the earthquake, directed and edited by IU alumnus Jace Freeman (4:25pm, 42 minutes, 2010). Freeman graduated from IU-Bloomington with a degree in Telecommunications in 2006. A native of Carmel, Indiana, Freeman now resides in Nashville, TN, where he co-founded a human rights-centered film production company, The Moving Picture Boys. “When the Ground Stopped Shaking” premiered in October 2010 as an official selection at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. The film depicts a community in Grand Goâve, Haiti attempting to rebuild their lives just weeks after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. The intimate footage of this cinema-verité documentary presents a humanizing portrayal of the lives of families displaced by the earthquake and the aid workers sent to help with the relief operations. The film demonstrates how medical personnel and their patients meet challenges with humor and love amidst the chaos of this life-altering event.
The final film of the Haiti Film Festival will be “Strange Things: Children of Haiti” (5:25pm, 72 minutes, 2010). Director-Producer-Editor Alexandra Hammond will lead the discussion after the film. “Strange Things” tells the remarkable story of three orphaned teenage boys in Haiti’s northern city Cap-Haïtien. Following their lives over a period of four years (2006-2009), the film reveals the difficulties encountered by these “sanguine” (“soulless” in Haitian Creole) as they attempt to navigate life as untimely adults. This film addresses the vast divide in opportunities available to Haiti’s underprivileged children versus the privileged few, particularly in the realm of formal education. After the January 12 earthquake, Regine Zamor, Co-Producer and translator of “Strange Things,” created the “Bagay Dwol Haiti Relief Fund” to identify sustainable street children and youth programs and to advocate for public, free, and quality education in Haiti. “Strange Things” was an official selection of the 2010 MoMA Documentary Fortnight Film Festival and the 2010 DocMiami International Film Festival. A TV version of the film called “Children of Haiti,” containing new footage from 2010, will soon be shown on the PBS series “Independent Lens.”
In addition to the film offerings, starting at 2:30pm patrons can interact with several Indiana-based organizations at information booths in the lobby of the theater. These organizations will share information about their ongoing service projects in Haiti before and since the earthquake. Patrons will be able to learn about these projects and how they can get involved. The booths will be available until 6:30pm. Information on the festival can be found online at https://bloomington4haiti.wordpress.com/events.
For more information on the films, please visit: