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5th International Haitian Film Festival - Montreal


SYLVAIN RICHARD is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. Here are his ratings, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


Sylvain Richard Among Sylvain Richard's best ever films = (The Wall: Ben-Hur: The Passion of the Christ: Wizard of OZ: Gone With the Wind: 13 Tzameti: This Island Earth: 2001 Space Odyssey: Modern Times: Metropolis) 5 favourite directors = Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorcese, Takashi Miiki, Oliver Stone and Woody Allen .


The goal, mission and vision of The Montreal Haitian Film Festival (Founder/Director - Fabienne Colas and programming director - Emile Castonguay) is to demonstrate through cinema that the reality of Haiti and its people is more complex, diversified and richer than what is told/shown in the news; and to create a space where the major social, economic and political issues can be debated. In the context of the 40 or so films that were featured in this year's fifth edition, the festival's goals were clearly accomplished as every aspect of Haitian culture, history, economic and socio-political arenas was explored. This festival rated 3.5 out of

2.6 -- LA PREMIERE ETOILE (The First Star), Lucien Jean-Baptiste
A delightful and hilarious family comedy about a Martinique husband and father of three who does odd jobs and spends his days betting on the races at the local PMU Bar (like our pubs). One day at mealtime he promise to take his family on a ski vacation. His wife (French) threatens to leave if he doesn't hold true to his promise, so he resorts to all sorts of extremes and zany antics to bring this about. Hilarious situations abound within a subtle racist paradigm as they (father, children and grandmother) are the only Blacks at the ski resort.

2.3 -- LIFE OUTSIDE OF PEARL, Johnny Desarmes
Drama depicting the experiences of a lower middle class Haitian family living outside of Haiti (hence the title). Situations presented not credible and superficially handled. Editing choppy.

2.7 -- DANS LA GUEULE DU CROCODILE, Catherine Larivain, Lucie Ouimet
Fifty two min. film portrait of Manno Charlemagne, activist poet and singer who resisted François "Papa Doc" Duvalier during his brutal, corrupt reign. Film focuses mainly on his stint as mayor of Port-au-Prince.

2.7 -- MAESTRO ISSA, Franz Voltaire
Educational 50 min. film portrait of Issa El Saieh, the son of Palestinian immigrants, who revolutionized Haitian music in the 40s and 50s.

2.6 -- LA COULEUR DU TEMPS, Danic Champoux
Forty six min. film exploring the issue of the abnormally high rate of young Haitians in Quebec youth protection system. Is it the youth or system that's dysfunctional?

2.6 -- QUEBEC, LIEU DE PASSAGE, Martine Asselin, Eric Martin
Fifty two min. film examining the question of Quebec City's approach to visible minorities. The city is one of the whitest in North America. Open or xenophobic?

2.5 -- HIP HOP: DANSE CREOLE, Peter Van Eecki, Pascale Severa
Twenty min. about a group of youths expressing themselves on the streets of Port-au-Prince through Hip Hop/breakdance creole style.

2.6 -- RECLAIMING PEACE, Michele Stephenson
Twenty-eight min. film following the support group Dwa Fanm (Creole for "women's rights"); rare insights into the contradictions and complexities of Haitian domestic violence. Follows two survivors in Brooklyn N.Y.

2.6 -- POTO MITAN, Mark Schuller, Renée Bergan
Fifty min. film putting a human face on the global economy as we follow five women; pillars in their respective Haitian communities as they deal with effects on the cost of living.

2.6 -- NOS FAMILLES, Marie-Helene Grenie
One 24-min.episode of a TV series that showcases the various cultures that have contributed to the developement of Quebec -- this one on Haiti.

2.5 -- PASAJ, Evelyn Sylvain, Pieter Van Eecke
Twenty-seven min. film looking at two border markets between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

2.5 -- MARIO BENJAMIN, Irene Lichtenstein
Fifty-three min. insightful portrait of a leading contempory Haitian artist.

2.6 -- LAKAY, Brian Lee
Lakay is Creole for "home." This 15-min. docu examines the diificulties facing second generation Haitians born in the Bahamas trying to obtain Bahamian citizenship.

2.6 -- CHEZ MOI, Ismail Farhane
Delightful 15-min. short fiction about an immigrant adapting to the solitude of her first winter in Quebec City.

2.8 -- THE OTHER SIDE OF WATER, Jeremy Robbins
Sixty-one min. film chronicling the Brookyln based Haitian group DJRara and how they took the voodoo based waking music called "rara" and reinvented it for the streets of Brooklyn.

2.5 -- SOUL SISTERS, Rahman Olagdigbolu
Human drama of a friendship between a Nigerian medical student in pursuit of the American dream and an African-American struggling with cultural ambiguity and the separation of her parents. The flow of film lacked a sense of human time, performances average.

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