Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
DIRECTOR, Jonathan Demme, continues his love affair with Haiti
(his previous films on the country include Haiti: Dreams of Democracy
and Haiti: Killing the Dream) with his latest work, a documentary
about Jean Dominique, an agronomist- turned-journalist who fought
tirelessly for democracy in the Caribbean island, until he was
assassinated in April 2000.
Dominique took over Radio Haiti-Inter in 1968, at the height
of dictator, Papa Doc Duvaliers power.
Until then, radio in Haiti had been strictly for entertainment,
with no news or current affairs and certainly no comment pertaining
to the workings of the incumbent regime.
But Dominique, along with his wife Michele Montas, changed all
that when he began to include regular political commentary in
the indigenous Creole language, rather than French the
language of the establishment, on the political and economic state
of the nation.
While this incredibly brave stance made Dominique a hero with
the poor and the dispossessed, it made him public enemy number
1 with the countrys land-owners and the political and military
On several occasions, the Haitian army took steps to close down
Radio Haiti-Inter, and twice Dominique was forced into exile in
But each time he returned and, with each return, his iconic status
with the people grew, until, finally, he was targeted for death
by supporters of the politician, Dany Toussaint.
In his film, Demme relies on the usual documentary format, interspersing
interviews with Dominique, Montas and other prominent Haitian
militants, with archive footage covering events on the island
from the 1960s up to the present day.
But what makes it so fascinating is the larger-than-life presence
of Dominique, who was interviewed while living in New York, in
A passionate and forceful speaker, Dominique had tremendous charisma
and his great love for Haiti and its people was matched by his
unflagging determination that they should find a democratic voice
through his radio station.
Here, he explains how his original employment as a government
agronomist fired his love for the Haitian working class and how
he withstood torture, and threats against his life, to fight for
The end result is a portrait of a fantastically courageous and
humane man, who stands alongside the likes of Fidel Castro as
a champion of the working classes.
His memory lives on.