52 Minutes (1" Videotape/M&E)
From Promotional Literature
In early 1987, the people of Haiti toppled the corrupt dictatorship of "Baby Doc" Duvalier. There has now been a referendum on a new constitution and elections are promised. One of the USA's most outstanding feature film directors, Jonathan Demme--whose SOMETHING WILD has just been acclaimed in its UK release--co-operated with experienced British TV current affairs director Jo Menell for this highly original impressionistic report on the Caribbean island, as its six million inhabitants celebrated the first anniversary of the overthrow of the Duvalier regime on 7 February 7 1987.
Throughout the programme, the common people of Haiti convey their desire for greater democracy and the widespread feeling that the uprooting of the old order has not finished--this year's referendum on the constitution offered many of them their first opportunity to vote in a lifetime of corrupt dictators, most recently the Duvaliers, Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc and their lawless enforces, the TonTons Macoutes. But while outlining the country's economic problems--80% of the people are unemployed, 87% have no access to drinkable water and the average daily income is around L1.50-- the programme is far from a conventional current affairs documentary. There is no commentary, and the programme is crammed with popular music and current songs that reflect the way in which Haiti's distinctive culture-- the most African of the Caribbean islands--meets the political realities of this struggling, unique country. The music reflects the central importance of Voodoo, which some of its exponents claim has been wrongly criticised as something strange and sinister. And it also reflects the importance of radio in a country where--with 85% illiteracy--it is the main medium of public information.
The programme is as informative as it is entertaining, for Demme's uninhibited use of music carries much of the weight of the expression of popular political hopes. After writing, producing and directing films with Roger Corman, Demme became best known for CITIZENS BAND (1976) and MELVIN AND HOWARD (1980), and demonstrated a particular skill with popular music in his unusual performance with the Talking Heads band, STOP MAKING SENSE in 1984, and in his latest feature, SOMETHING WILD.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - ED SAXON (FOR CHANNEL FOUR TELEVISION)
Overseas Sales: JANE BALFOUR FILMS UNLIMITED 110 Gloucester Avenue London NW1 8JA Tel: (010) 586-3443/586-8762 Tlx: 24224 Ref 2544
SUNDAY TIMES - AUGUST 9, 1987
HAITI DREAMS OF DEMOCRACY
(9:00 - 10:00 p.m. C4).
Director Jonathan Demme (of Something Wild fame) presents and 18-month anniversary film on Haiti and its hapless natives, who believe the Duvalier regime has not so much been uprooted as decapitated.
TIME OUT - AUGUST 12-19, 1987
9:00 - 10:00 p.m.
HAITI DREAMS OF DEMOCRACY (Clinica Estetico). Democracy is a heady drug and the people of Haiti are still reeling from their first taste of it since the dictator, Baby Doc Duvalier fled.
This documentary--jointly produced by Jonathan ('Something Wild') Demme and a British current affairs director--gives and impressionistic portrait of the Caribbean island as it celebrates its first anniversary of life without Baby. A referendum has been held on a new constitution giving Haitians a chance to vote for the first time in their lives but there are fears that the army, which still wilds power, may not be prepared to give it up when the time comes. Unemployment is running at 80 percent and less than 15 percent of the population can read. The high illiteracy rate means that radio is the best form of disseminating information and the political song has been perfected to a fine art in a ditty called "Too Many Candidates" referring to the scramble for power in the elections that have been promised. The programme is a richly textured portrait of this place which ends all too soon. The programme makers have tried to cram in so much that the inevitable result is a hunger for more. Any one aspect of the island--the politics, the music, the belief in voodoo--could have filled an hour with plenty left to say.
CITY LIMITS- AUGUST 12-19, 1987
HAITI DREAMS OF DEMOCRACY. Who else other than film director Jonathan Demme ('Something Wild,' 'Swimming to Cambodia') would inject an Haitian rap duo into a documentary framework for the express purpose of articulating the democratic longings of a recently unshackled people? Sensitively exploring the harshly interdependent political and economic conditions of the notorious Caribbean island since 'Baby Doc' Duvalier was toppled, Demme and co-director Jo Menell wisely adopt evolving folklore as a means to understanding how a nation survives reigns of terror against liberty and soul. Despite a tendency to overstate the impressionistic, the revelation that much remains the same under military 'caretaker' control comes through loud and clear--one begins to relate to, and share the dread of those who see the island's turbulent colonial past as engendering a vicious circle forever begetting repression. It's likewise educational to observe two such 'personal' filmmakers bending technique to the service of the subject at hand, blending 'local colour' with a rare openness to actually analyse. Recommended. (John Lyttle).
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