The Journey with Jesus: Film Reviews
Film Reviews by Dan Clendenin
The Agronomist (2003)—Haitian
"The truth," recalls Jean Dominique (1930–2000) quoting Shakespeare, "will always make the devil's face blush." For forty years Dominique was Haiti's most eloquent and outspoken political and human rights activist. Whether it was Papa Doc Duvalier, his son Baby Doc, Raoul Cedras, Jean Bertrand Aristide, Preval, the provisional puppet governments supported by America and run by the military, or the hated Macoutes thug-militia, Dominique spoke unvarnished truth and justice to power. He gave voice to the poorest of the poor in general and peasants in particular. When he was assassinated April 3, 2000 at the age of 70, he requested that his wife and the peasants together pour his ashes into the river. By training Dominique was an agronomist, but he became a national hero by force of his unflinching bravery, charming eloquence, and political passion. Late in the documentary he describes himself as always having had "an unquenchable faith as a militant for true change." With his journalist wife Michele Montas, he owned and operated Haiti's oldest and only free radio station, Radio Haiti, despite repeated episodes of harassment, torture, jail, and over six years of exile in Manhattan. Broadcasts were in native Creole rather than colonial French, connecting Dominique viscerally to the millions of powerless peasants. In addition, he produced Haiti's first film in Haiti by a Haitian, sensing that when you watch closely, you understand how a film becomes a political act. In 1965, Papa Doc's authorities permanently closed Haiti's first film club that he had started. Written and directed by Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), who interviewed Dominique over a period of ten years, this documentary demonstrates how some times human history is driven from "the bottom up" rather than the "top down." In English and Creole (with English subtitles).