Published Sep 22, 2009Set in Haiti on the 200th anniversary of the country's independence, Moloch Tropical tells the story of a fictional president's final day in power. Holed up in his castle built into a mountain, President Jean de Dieu (Zinadine Soualem) ignores the rising discontent of the people in the streets and lets the outside world in only in the form of strictly controlled media.
Meanwhile, his staff busy themselves preparing the anniversary celebrations meant to attract some positive international attention to the beleaguered country. Once a man of God and beloved politician to the masses, Jean de Dieu's time in power has corrupted him so completely that he's seen here as a paranoid, overwhelmed mess, lecherously propositioning every woman in his sphere and overseeing the violent repression of dissenting voices. Over the course of the day, the country falls into massive civil unrest and Jean de Dieu loses his grip on his power and sanity.
The film, a re-imagining of Alexander Sokurov's Moloch (about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun) is transferred brilliantly to its new setting. Director Raoul Peck (Lumumba), who was once Haiti's Minister of Culture, has crafted a scathing political satire that has tremendous resonance with Haitian political history while offering broader insight into brutal regimes everywhere and the global economic and political factors that breed them.
Soualem's Jean de Dieu is almost a classic tragic figure, with his obsessive need to maintain power at all costs ultimately leading to his downfall and destroying everyone close to him.
The film is beautifully shot, capturing the decaying opulence of the mountain stronghold, contrasting that with the kinetic, gritty violence of the city streets. And the script contains equal amounts of bitter humour, jarring absurdity and eerie quiet reflection. (Velvet)