Published Jan 01, 2006Jonathan Demme turns to the documentary form in order to show the fascinating life of the charismatic Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, from his beginnings as an agronomist jailed for his attempts to organise land reforms to his passion for film, which led to his co-directing the first Haitian-made movie, to his tenure at the helm of his country’s national radio station.
Dominique and his partner Michelle Montas braved the wrath of their country’s repressive government for decades while running Radio Haiti, revolutionising the country’s airwaves by broadcasting to the people in Creole instead of the colonial language of French and introducing many of the citizens to foreign news and local stories told in such a careful way that they could not be condemned by the military regime but could inspire the citizens to take action.
Using as its centrepiece a series of conversations between Dominique and Demme over the course of a few years in the early 1990s, when Dominque was in exile in the United States after a presidential coup made his home country a deadly place for him to reside in, the film covers not only Dominique’s experiences but also gives quite a clear picture of Haiti’s incredible political history.
Demme deftly uses stock footage to augment Dominique’s tales of the origins of the country’s political tumult, which inevitably include disastrous U.S. intervention, both overt and covert. What makes the film even more remarkable is that somewhere in the midst of the tales of political strife and struggle is found an incredibly beautiful love story between Dominique and Montas, making the film’s ending strikingly poignant. (Th!nk)