Haiti Goes Hollywood… Almost

By Guest Columnist Aug 28, 2007

As a young boy growing up in Haiti, I often imagined myself as Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian leader of the first successful Black anti-colonialism movement. I loved reenacting roles with my friends where we’d free ourselves from the French armies. Today, children of Haiti continue to inhabit a thirst for revolution even as some of us start new lives in a foreign country. This explains why I was elated to learn that Danny Glover, a Black actor and activist, is making a movie about Toussaint Louverture. However, it didn’t take long for my pride to turn to disappointment. That’s because Glover has committed to shooting the film outside Haiti. To me, this undermines the film’s potential to be the phoenix-rising story Haitians need to invigorate a country that some consider one of the poorest in the world. In May, Glover said he’d film the movie in Venezuela. This was shortly after President Hugo Chavez promised $18 million to make Toussaint. But by doing this, Glover is missing an opportunity to discredit taboos surrounding Haiti and also to involve Haiti in the re-telling of its own, incredible history. Haitian music producer Wyclef Jean, who Glover sought funding from, agrees. He said he wouldn’t help fund the movie as long as Haiti can’t call the film its own.Clef, like myself, understands the promise of this movie. Depending on how it plays out, the movie can really facilitate Haiti in reclaiming its spirit of social movement in a way that "Roots" did for Black America. This isn’t to say that movies like "Hotel Rwanda," that are shot outside of their storyline locations ultimately fail. Rather, at this pivotal moment—after celebrating two hundred years of freedom in 2004—Haiti deserves to have its story told with an aggressive integrity and in a way that uplifts its people. Would a story about Castro and Cuba’s revolution be shot anywhere but Cuba? Further, it is possible Glover is truly concerned about safety. But when you look at countless films that braved the uncertainties of third world countries, including "Blood Diamond," which was shot in Nigeria, filming Toussaint becomes an issue of courage. And I’m afraid that with all of Glover’s good intentions, there may not be enough to make this movie more than a blockbuster. Nathan Senat is founder/CEO of Horizon Star Entertainment, a screen-writing and production company. Contact him at nsenat05@yahoo.com.