Haiti Film Fest in Brooklyn

“We want to have a film festival in the center of the Haitian community!” says Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX) Director Regine Roumain, as she wraps up the final details for the upcoming three-day Haiti Film Fest, running Nov. 18-20 in Brooklyn.

Kicking off the three-day festival, an opening night gala at the Brooklyn Museum on Nov. 18 will start with a cocktail reception joined by participating filmmakers and noteworthy members of the community and a screening of “When The Drum is Beating,” the documentary about the Cape Haitien band Septentrional preceded by a live performance by the band, affectionately called Septen.

During the weekend, Nov. 19 & 20, Long Island University’s Spike Lee Screening Room will be the hub and venue of the Haiti Film Fest. Starting at noon each day, a diverse schedule of free films about Haiti will entertain and inform the film-going public. haiticulturalx.org/hcxhaiti-film-fest-schedule.

Saturday has a strong program starting with a film about a people’s folk musician (and former Port-au-Prince mayor) Manno Charlemagne (Konviksyon).

At 1:45 p.m., Brooklyn filmmaker Michele Stephenson will screen her short, “Haiti One Day, One Destiny,” about the aftermath of the earthquake followed by French filmmaker Charles Najman’s film “Une Etrange Cathedrale” (The Strange Cathedral) that evokes the devastating effects of the earthquake through the words of Frankétienne–one of Haiti’s greatest poet. Both filmmakers will discuss the films following the screenings.

Internationally recognized Haiti-born filmmaker Raoul Peck’s “Maloch Tropical” will screen at 4:15 p.m.

The day wraps up at 6:30 p.m. with the intelligent and hysterical satire “Loves of a Zombie” about a zombie who seeks out the woman he has fallen in love with. Popularized by the media, local politicians want to run the zombie for president. Haiti-based filmmaker Arnold Antonin will be on hand to discuss the film afterwards.

Sunday’s documentary screenings are equally as diverse with Mario Benjamin (at noon), a profile on the talented contemporary painter in Haiti, Children of Haiti (1:15 p.m.) by local filmmakers Alexandria Hammond and Regine Zamor, about three teenage street boys in Cape Haitien. At 5:15 p.m., Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Episode One of his Black in Latin America series:

“Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided” will screen.

The festival will present a sneak peak at the narrative “Kaleb” (3:00 p.m.) about frictions in the family as son Kaleb is accused of rape. Filmmaker Kervans Barthelemy with “Atibon” will discuss the film following. “Jean Genti,” (6:30 p.m.) a film about a Haitian emigrant to the Dominican Republic in search of work rounds out the festival.

It is being sponsored by the dynamic Brooklyn-based Haiti Cultural Exchange that has on-going programs promoting Haitian culture in all forms of the arts: Literature, painting, film, photography, spoken word, performance, and music, implemented through monthly dialogue salons and children’s art workshops. The Haiti Film Fest is their most ambitious program so far.

HCX have been the recipients of more than one community grant that recognizes its contributions to the community. “We are working toward the goal of having a Haitian cultural center,” Director Roumain says.

Film selections were culled from almost 80 Haiti/Haitian-oriented films. Additionally, student films including some commercials from Jacmel-based Cine Institute, Haiti’s only filmmaking training school, are to be screened prior to the feature films.

Michele Stephenson, chair of the Festival Advisory Committee, wraps it up, “The variety of work being shown over the two days of the festival is a testament to the vibrancy of filmmaking as an art form and how it succeeds in putting a human face to so many stories that need to be told.”