Jacmel, Haiti: Outdoor Film Festival Supports Growth of Haitian Cinema

Outdoor Movies HaitiThe Film Festival Jakmel is one of the biggest cultural events in Haiti. The festival showcases a selection of full length features, medium, and short films from the world of cinema In 2004, Haitian artist Patrick Boucard and American filmmaker David Belle of FOSAJ (an organization in Jacmel which supports arts and cultural development in Haiti), organized the first international film festival in Haiti. Jacmel has a history as a arts and cultural center and sits on the southern coast. It is quite beautiful. The festival objective is to support the growth of cinematographic art through the screening of films and cultural and artistic activities. Since its creation, over 200 films have been shown to a large Haitian and international audience. The second edition of Film Festival Jacmel was something miraculous given the state of insecurity in Haiti. In Jacmel there was light and excitment for the week long film festival which ran from July 9 through July 16. The festival featured an amazing array of international and local films. More than 15 directors attended, with representatives from 30 countries travelling from as far as Africa, Canada, France, United States, Spain, Cuba, Guadeloupe, and other Caribbean nations. The list of directors included Raoul Peck, Jeff Zimbalist, Abderrahmane Sissako, Dany LaferriГЁre, Andrew Dosunmu, Jean Claude Flamand, Jacques Roc, and Janluk Stanislas among others. Patrick Boucard, co-director and founder of the film festival, addressed the audience at the opening ceremony. He highlighted that festival would featured over 100 awards-films, including 21 films from local Haitian filmmakers ( titled Cinema La Kay). This year the film were divided into categories: : Africa, France, Americas and the Caribbean, the Earth, Children's Films. All film screenings were free-of-charge to the general public. This year all film screenings were shown at four different venues, including the Jackmel's Wharf, a large open-air public space for night-time screenings. The other threee venues included former movie theater, Acropolys, a long dormant facility which has a seating capacity of 150. The larger Concorde disco, with balcony seating , had been harnessed as a daytime movie housing over 500. Ecole de Musique was reserved as screening venue for 200 viewers. Jacmel Film Festival kicked off with Opening Night Film "Cousines", a Haitian film, directed by filmmaker Richard Senecal. Jacmel's Wharf was the official site for the film festival's grand opening. The dock was built about 6 years ago with the hope of attracting cruise ships to the era. Unfortunately, it was never used for that purpose due to poor construction. On Saturday, July 9 the wharf found a great purpose as an outdoor venue. Jacmelians came out in droves, children romped while the audience assembled to recorded music. A previously neglected section of Jacmel has suddenly found new life. More then 2000 viewers attended Cousines' world premier. The audience did not mind standing for nearly two hours to see the movie. Movies fans were not disappointed for the the film echoed sentiments which reflects on today's Haitian economics reality and relationships. In addition to the film screening, there was an outdoor concert which kept the party going way past midnight. Security was plentiful but not oppressive. Co-founder David Belle welcomed an enthusiatic crowd which doubled in size the second night of the Film Festival. As word of mouth seems to bring out the whole town, timachann (vendors) take advantage of this business opportunity to sell fritay, soda, and other snacks at the gate. Similar to last year's program, Guetty Felin organized workshops and dialogues with renowned filmmakers participating in the festival for people interested in filmmaking. All workshops took place at Alliance Francais .Writer and filmmaker Dany Laferriere led last Monday's workshop on adapting novels to cinema. Participating in the first all day workshops were over 100 Haitians interested in film--high school students, graduates, journalists, and university students, those interested in becoming videographers, becoming actors, or those wanting to know how to understand films. Following filmmaker Laferriere's presentation on the difference between literature and filmyou have to SEE not tell about --he presented an assignment. Write a short story with images that can be seen and offered two themes: a childhood remembrance or a story of the person being kidnapped and finding the weakest link in the situation to free themselves. Organized into working clusters, each group had to write a story together and in the final two hours the stories were presented to the group at large with observation and comments by the filmmaker. He emphasized that the storyteller must give personal account and create details that are deep and familiar with every day situation. All stories must be original, that are felt and can be seen. Dany kept the group entertained with intricate observations. Brooklyn resident, Nigerian filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu led the second full day workshop on the practice of filmmaking. Concentrating on selected scenes from films, the group analyzed camera work and editing. Lighting, framing, and filming were included with demonstrations of techniques; participants provided the acting for scenes that were videoed and then analyzed. Other Film Festival workshops' this week include, Jean-Claude Falmand-Barny and Janluc Stanislas, who traveled from Guadeloupe, on making a short film, Abderrahmnae Sissako, casting and working with non-professional actors, and Haiti's own Raoul Peck, Le Cinema d'Auteur. The Wharf screenings were the backbone of the Festival but by Day-3 residents in Jacmel understood what the Festival was all about. Carrying the 65-page program in hand, and checking the signs around town with the screening schedule, Jacmelians filled the theatres. All the venues, including the 10 am screenings were full. The 5:30pm films was so popular that sometimes hundreds had not been able to get in.

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