21 Feb 2012
“I was shooting my first film ever, standing on top of a house filming kids playing football when the earth started shaking and the house crumbled underneath me,” said 27-year old filmmaker Massena Cesar, recalling that day of profound sorrow when a massive earthquake rocked Haiti, killing over 200,000 people on 12 January, 2010.
Two years later, Cesar and four other recently graduated filmmakers from Cine Institute—Haiti’s only professional film academy based in the southern coastal town of Jacmel—embarked on an eight-day journey across Haiti to show the reconstruction efforts through their own lenses. The 20-minute ‘road movie’ “Haiti Rebuilds: A Journey of Hope” was co-produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with award-winning documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack as mentor director.
“We really need the international community’s support; but ultimately I cannot wait to see Haiti standing on its own feet: A strong nation that can offer a better life for its citizens,” said Cesar who flew from Haiti to take part in the premiere at Columbia University Journalism School in New York City on Tuesday.
“The film depicts the spirit of the Haitian people, who have faith in their country: We don’t want food; we want work and education,” said Jean Wesley Cazeau, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the United Nations at the event.
Debating with academics, journalists and UN staff members, the panelists discussed the challenges for Haiti’s transition from a humanitarian to a sustainable development path with topics that ranged from brain drain and the cholera outbreak, to the need to boost private investments and encourage the Haitian diaspora’s active engagement.
“I think the movie allowed people in Haiti to speak for themselves; the next important step is that the international community learns to listen—which it hasn’t been doing even for centuries before the earthquake took place,” said former Associated Press Haiti correspondent Jonathan Katz, one of the panelists .
“The film also conveys a sense of Haiti’s rich cultural traditions and life, and of the tremendous strength of its people,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said. “As the filmmakers say, Haiti might be a poor country, ‘but its people will never be poor’.”
“We also hope that this film will help stimulate a strengthened and continuous international response to the remaining challenges in “building back” a better Haiti,” Clark added, reminding the audience that two years on from the quake, just half of the promised aid has been delivered.
“I’ve gone to Haiti many times and I’ve recently started to perceive that there’s a sense of optimism about the future; and this film conveys this message,” said UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Heraldo Munoz. “Two democratically elected presidents in a row is a historic fact—and this is already a huge step towards strengthening institutions and rebuilding infrastructure.”