Set in Haiti in the early 60s during the outset of Francois Duvalier's reign of terror and ineptitude, this third feature written and directed by Raoul Peck relates the dreamlike yet tension-filled remembrances of Sarah, then eight years old. Her father, an ineffectual military officer, has fled the country with his wife, leaving Sarah and her two sisters in the care of their grandmother. Sarah's hometown is now controlled by Janvier, the ruthless leader of the local militia, and the three sisters spend much of their time hiding in their grandmother's attic while she tries to find a way to get them safely out of Haiti. Throughout the film Sarah flashes back to an act of brutality committed by Janvier against a friend of her fathers, a maimed man who's now the town idiot and who'll eventually figure in her escape. The semiautobiographical storytelling by the Haitian-born, Zaire-reared Peck has an authentic feel to it, from the keenly observant child's point of view to the pastel-colored buildings fronting the streets that incongruously evoke tropical cheerfulness. Understated yet forceful, it manages to personalize the universal themes of good versus evil and free will versus oppression without resorting to political rhetoric (except for a couple of news snippets on the radio). What has kept the narrative focused on a human, nonallegorical level is an excellent, believable cast that includes Jennifer Zubar as Sarah, Toto Bissainthe as Sarah's grandmother, and Jean-Michel Martial as Javier. Also noteworthy is the lyrical, gliding camerawork of Armand Marco. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, October 18, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, October 21 through 24, 7:00 and 9:00; 773-281-4114.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo still.