Haitian Film Makes Cannes Film Festival Debut

haitian-film-freda-at-cannes
Haitian director Gessica Geneus (5thR) and French producer Jean-Marie Gigon (3rdR) dance with cast members as they arrive for the screening of the film "Freda" as part of the Un Certain Regard selection at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, southern France, on July 14, 2021. (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, PARIS, France, Thurs. July 15, 2021: The country of Haiti may be in turmoil following the murder of its President, but a Creole-language film is dazzling at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Haitian director, singer and actress, Gessica Geneus, danced with cast members as they arrived for the screening of the film “Freda” in southern France today, July 14, 2021.

The cast includes Nehemie Bastien as Freda, Gaëlle Bien-Aimé, Djanaina Francois, Cantave Kerven, Rolapthon Mercure, Fabiola Remy and Jean Jean.

The 94-minutes film, shot in Port-au-Prince in 2019 and 2020, is a fictional autobiography on the plight of women in working-class neighborhoods, said Géneus.

The film was produced by Ayizan Prod from Haiti, Sanosi Prod (France) and Merveille Prod (Benin), and tells the story of three women, who decided to leave a disadvantaged town plagued by growing insecurity, after an event traumatic.

Geneus weaves aspects of her own life and experience into the film.

Cinematographer Karine Aulnette places the viewer right in the heart of Port-au-Prince and appears to have filmed in the middle of protests as people run through the streets demanding an end to corruption.

Scenes in the family store, spilling on to a sidewalk of brightly painted house fronts, feel theatrical, yet others, such as those the streets of Port-au-Prince, have a documentary-like urgency. The fervor of a Christian service brushes up against the growing agitation of ritual dances during the Day Of The Dead commemorations. Classroom conversations between Freda and her peers have the air of Ken Loach’s Land And Freedom (1995) as they debate politics, religion and the heavy shadows of colonial rule. They argue over the merits of peaceful protest, revolution and direct action. 

A large part of the bigger picture of “Freda” is an understanding of the oppression faced by women in a country where beauty is a prize for a powerful man, education is dismissed as a pointless luxury and change will only come if the women themselves break with tradition and defy expectations.

The odds stacked against Freda and the problems facing Haiti make her defiance all the more engaging and makes the film so pertinent at this specific moment in Haiti’s history.