"Here’s why you should watch the new documentary film by Arnold Antonin," by Alyssa GOLDSTEIN SEPINWALL

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Perspective | Here’s why you should watch the new documentary film by Arnold Antonin

Par ALYSSA GOLDSTEIN SEPINWALL

Arnold Antonin’s new film “Jean-Jacques Dessalines, le vainqueur de Napoléon Bonaparte”, is a must-see for anyone interested in Haitian cinema or in the founding of the Haitian nation. It will premiere on February 23, 2022, at the Karibé Hotel

Antonin has made the very first feature-length Haitian film about the Haitian Revolution and the War of Independence—and the very first documentary anywhere in the world on Jean-Jacques Dessalines. At a time when filmmakers in Haiti and abroad have shown more interest in Toussaint Louverture, Antonin offers viewers—in Haiti and elsewhere—a complex look at the father of Haitian independence.

The film features an impressive collection of Haitian scholars and experts who offer a fresh assessment of Dessalines for the 21st century. These include Pierre Buteau, Jean Casimir, Michèle Pierre-Louis, Jean Alix René, Bayyinah Bello, Vertus Saint-Louis, Jhon Picard Byron, Leslie Pean, Gaétan Mentor, Marc-Ferl Morquette, Daniel Elie and others.

Antonin’s 94-minute film combines interviews with these scholars; segments with actors playing Dessalines (Hollandy Desrosiers), Boisrond-Tonnerre (Gaël Pressoir), Claire Heureuse (Esmerelda Milcé) and others; and innovative illustrations and animatics. The film also offers the sweeping panoramic cinematography and aerial views that we are accustomed to in Antonin films such as Ainsi parla la mer/Men sa Lanmè a di (2020). Jean-Jacques Dessalines, le vainqueur de Napoléon Bonaparte, Antonin’s newest film, draws upon a deep base of historical sources in combination with new assessments of Dessalines’ life and legacy. Antonin notes that the Haitian Revolution was one of the three great revolutions of its era (after the US and French)—but that foreigners sought to erase it from history, because of its taking “to their logical end the values extolled by others” regarding racism and slavery. The film surveys the Haitian Revolution and the War of Independence, while focusing on Dessalines himself.

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