Sunday, August 20, 2017

'Ayiti Mon Amour' Shares Triumphant & Whimsical Tales in Haiti

Ayiti Mon Amour.

Back in 2010, on a January afternoon, Haiti was hit by a ferocious earthquake, killing thousands. Global relief efforts, meant to bring aide to devastated families, were stolen and squandered, leaving the very poor, destitute and hopeless. Filmmaker Guetty Felin created Broken Stones, a documentary about the terror and turmoil left behind, showcasing great devastation brought onto a country that lost many irreplaceable lives and homes. In Ayiti Mon Amour, Felin pens and directs an imaginative collection of poignant fables that offer healing and joy after the storm.

 Orphée (Joakim Cohen) and his mother (Pascale Faublas) have trouble adjusting to the neighborhood due to colorism. 
Set five years later, Orphée is a troubled young boy often fighting at school. However, that doesn't deter unique sensibility, the supernatural elements. He is fascinating, speaking between Japanese, French, and English, playing with his friendly black dog, always pensive, brooding. His mother is worried, rightly so, for he isolates himself from others, but looks at them with fierce longing. He is dreamy eyed and thoughtful, wandering through broken parts of Haiti, still grieving a father who had died in the earthquake.

Anisia Uzeyman (The Muse) is an inspiration for a troubled writer (James Noel). 
Originally tied down to a writer’s block afflicted writer, an energetic, cheery muse hollers like a wild banshee into his tormented mind. The stylish, slender beauty is bubbling with anticipation, almost rupturing to the surface. She demands him to give her tasks, let her live more than as a silent figure. The tired, frustrated man cannot think with petulant eagerness, natural inclination to roam beyond what is permissible, but stoically promises to present ideas despite ever present fatigued mood. Days pass by, he has no story for her. Unable to wait, she packs up her little suitcase, and leaves him. Her adventurous thirst is tasted as she explores areas of dilapidated buildings and broken spirits, rides boats floating in endless sea, and joins in a parade.

Jaurès the fisherman (Jaurès Andris) shares smiles and dances with his beautiful wife.
Jaurès is concerned about his wife in a poignant love story that entails not just surviving violent storms and , but coming to terms with growing old and finding ways to stay in love. One devout way is caring for the other when that person is ill. As this sweet fisherman feeds her, gently spooning bowls of soft mushiness into her reluctant mouth, she turns her head in between, not able to eat entire serving. She is listless, worn, despaired. Her illness is more than physical, emotional and mental anxiety exists within. He is committed to healing her and searches for remedy in his personal realm/haven.

Although the solitary writer doesn't interact, it is the muse who brings needed delight into Orphée's solitary darkness. She and Jaurès both offer him a reason to feel grateful.
An official 2016 TIFF selection and winner of Black Film Festival’s Best Narrative Feature, Guetty Felin’s Ayiti Mon Amour is the first Haitian film to be directed by a Haitian woman. That significant feat is an encouraging path to follow, especially to young girls hoping to capture homeland through their own eyes. A fiction with incredible heart and nostalgic wealth, Felin filmed specifically in a region affected by the earthquake, going into village areas, using locals as actors, knowing dates imperative to her written script. The sewing of the forgotten weaves well into the picture, each scene casts spells on audience, bedazzling with quixotic images frozen in a lingering time. It is also wonderful that Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe and Mississippi Masala) produced-- great to see women of color directors celebrating other women of color directors. This must continue onward.

Director/writer Guetty Felin with her real life son, Joakim Cohen.

Ayiti Mon Amour ends the way it begins. A single finger slowly traces uneven line of a crack, carefully following each jagged mark. This deliberate action seems to metaphorically describe lineage of life and death, the impossible circumstances impact future, bring unexpected change and growth. In these layered stories, a connection forms between characters, real or imagined, in a peaceful, integral sea as serene as mesmerizing blue waters captured in most breathtaking cinematography. Felin is reminding us of Haiti. Underneath memories of a colossal tragedy, of ashes and ghosts of the dead, births new images entailing magic and hope.

Haiti is not a graveyard. It is a real, majestic home unlike any place on earth.

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